Broward Teachers Ask Court to Stop Health Insurance Rate Hike

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No more insurance hikes!
In a last-ditch effort to prevent Broward school employees from paying thousands of dollars more for health insurance for their kids next year, the Broward Teachers Union this morning filed suit in Broward County Circuit Court to temporarily stop the 45 percent insurance rate hike.

The rate increase doesn't take effect until January 1, but the payroll deduction to pay for the insurance starts today. And already, some teachers say they they've been forced to drop their kids from their health plans. Others are struggling to figure out how to make ends meet. One teacher said his monthly health coverage cost jumped from $196.00 to $543.00

"I have not dropped my coverage. I have no choice but to continue to pay the high prices for the insurance coverage for my dependents," Dianna Hagan, a Plantation Park Elementary school teacher, wrote in a press release. "I am the only one working, my husband is disabled and I have a child that is a college student. We all have pre-existing conditions."

To pay for the insurance, Hagan wrote, she'll have to go without other luxuries -- such as paying her phone bill.
The battle over the skyrocketing health insurance rates comes amid allegations that Broward School Board Member Stephanie Kraft committed ethics violations while she sat on the committee that helped pick the district's sole insurance provider, Vista Healthplan Inc.

While Kraft was backing the three-year, $1.7 billion Vista contract, her husband, Mitch, was on the payroll of the firm lobbying for Vista, Sterling Resources Group. Kraft failed to disclose this detail. And her committee unanimously approved Vista's enormous rate hike for school employees with children.

In this morning's court filing, the union asks a judge to return the health insurance rates to 2009 prices until the Florida Commission on Ethics has finished its investigation of the allegations against Kraft.

Meanwhile, the union is still embroiled in contract negotiations with the district, trying to figure out how much employees will contribute to their health insurance in the future.

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