FCPS insurance Dan Garrett

Dan Garrett, former director of transportation for Frederick County Public Schools, is one of the school system retirees who has seen their life insurance rates increase.

Joe Polce, a Frederick County Public Schools retiree, was paying $6.60 a month for his life insurance premium.

His payout is $50,000, and through the years, the premium had risen marginally, increasing by only $3 or so since he retired in 1997.

As of July 1, Polce’s premium nearly quadrupled, to $24.85 a month for the same level of coverage as a result of a cost-saving measure approved in May by the Frederick County Board of Education.

The move startled some retirees, several of whom said they received no communication from Frederick County Public Schools prior to the board’s decision.

“We had no idea that this was coming,” Polce said. “That was the part that upset everybody.”

For decades, FCPS offered life insurance equal to the annual salary of an employee, capped at $50,000, with the school system paying 25 percent toward the cost of the premium.

Under the change voted on by the board at a May 6 worksession, which netted roughly $264,000 in savings, any employee can retain the full $50,000 coverage, but would need to pony up 100 percent of an increased premium.

An employee could choose to fall back to $25,000 or less, and the board would pay the full premium.

Retirees received a letter dated May 12, just six days after the vote, informing them of the change. They were given a deadline of June 1 to return a mailed form to the FCPS benefits office, and decide whether to reduce their coverage.

In the May 12 letter, FCPS said that once the retirees maintained or reduced their coverage, this plan would be locked in, unless the retiree wanted to drop the coverage completely.

After backlash from the retirees, with several appearing before board members at their meeting in late May, the deadline for the decision was extended to June 15. Retirees can now elect to reduce their benefits every year during the open enrollment period in May.

“They were throwing us a carrot,” Polce said.

Dan Garrett, who retired from the school system in 1992, said in an interview that he felt like the board was treating the retirees as “dead weight.” He estimated that he and his wife will pay $630 more in the combined increase to life and health insurance.

Though the retirees had never received anything in writing from previous school boards cementing the life insurance rates, Garrett noted that the insurance coverage was a “promise” that every other board had honored. He could not identify the year that the school board had promised this level of coverage, but said through other conversation with retirees, Garrett gleaned the plan had been enacted in the ‘60s.

Garrett met with two Baltimore County lawyers to discuss the possibility of filing an age discrimination lawsuit against Frederick County Public Schools or the board, but both informed him that such a case would likely not succeed, Garrett said.

Though the retirees will receive a 1.6 percent increase in their state pensions at the end of July, Garrett said this extra money wouldn’t cover the costs of the increased life insurance premium, nor the increased health care premium, which increased not only for retirees, but current employees as well.

For a Medicare eligible retiree with 25 years of service, the monthly premium jumped $8, to $98.61 a month.

Life insurance can be much more costly with outside agencies. AARP, for instance, for a life insurance policy issued to a person at age 70, charges a $183.54 monthly premium.

For some retirees, particularly those who served the school system as support staff, $24.85 a month for life insurance premiums could break the bank, especially on a fixed income, said Sally Smith, president of the Frederick County Retired School Personnel Association, a 660-member advocacy group that represents the interests of all retirees.

The association does not possess bargaining rights like the teachers union, the Frederick County Teachers Association, or the support staff or administration unions, Smith said.

“This was the plan for their spouse, or for their family, when they passed away,” Smith said. “And maybe $300 a year is a lot to them. Because for some people, it’s either pay for food or prescriptions.”

As of January 2015, 1,667 retirees had enrolled in life insurance coverage with FCPS, which uses Standard Insurance Co. for life insurance.

Of those, 956 retirees opted for the maximum $50,000 in coverage, 399 took coverage levels between $25,001 and $49,999, and 312 had signed up for $25,000 or less, according to data published by FCPS.

At the May 6 works session, only Board of Education President Brad Young voted to maintain the current coverage plan for retirees, and said in an interview he felt like the retirees got a raw deal.

“It was unfair to change it,” he said. “We had promised them, and they originally weren’t given a lot of time to make the decision.”

The insurance agency is now slated to remove quite a bit of liability from its books, though Board of Education member Joy Schaefer said the board did not approach the issue with that as the consideration.

The board members who voted in favor of the change hated to do so, said Schaefer, one of the “yes” votes. She said that the board had been presented with four options, but felt this was the most fair.

The school system has faced tough fiscal constraints, Schaefer said. For many years, she said, the county had funded FCPS at the level of maintenance of effort, the minimum amount required by law, and with inflationary factors, this amounted to decreases in the school system budget. Other cuts were made across the board, Schaefer said.

“None of us were happy to do that,” she said. “If we would have the ability to continue to carry that cost, we absolutely would have.”

Liz Barrett, vice president of the board, called the decision “regrettable,” but said the board needed to balance the needs of the 40,000 FCPS students, and current and retired employees.

“The goal is to get back to a place where we never have to consider going back on any of those commitments,” Barrett said.

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf

(17) comments

microsme2121

A policy with a predefined duration limits on the average coverage period. Once the policy is set to expire or expired, it is completely up to the policy owner to renew the term life insurance policy or let the coverage end. Read more lifeinsurancevision(dot)com

sue1955

DickD: I did not buy the most expensive casket by a long shot. Also, I did not state to actually pay the funeral home in advance. My suggestion was to assign part of the life insurance to the funeral home in advance. "In advance" doesn't have to mean a long time away from expected death. It can mean once the person is start to go downhill or actually dying. Maybe I should have explained further, but I didn't want to make my commentary any more wordy than I usually do. LOL

Nicki: spot-on, great comments. How true.

Nicki

You can also thank labor unions for a living wage, health insurance and a shorter work week.

DickD

And a lot more!

bjonesskins69

You can thank the labor unions for this...and the demise of cities such as Detroit, Chicago, etc...

elymus43

Get used to the real world, things are subject to change now days.

Hcilpbl

Dan hit the mail on the head. They ARE dead weight.

Nicki

This isn't just about the additional cost, but also the reneging of a contract with an employee. When the tea party rode into town, during a recession, they went after employee benefits. If the economy should boom again, the tables will turn.
FCPS is no longer a great place to work. Look at how they fired their IT staff then asked them to reapply.
May this serve as a warning to anyone aspiring to work there.


bpsws

I wonder who taught the writer of the caption below the picture, "is one of the school system employees who have . . ." This should be "is one of the school system employees who has . . ." The subject of this sentence is one, not employees, the object of the preposition of.

sue1955

I forgot to mention about the price of the plot, also. I was fortunate in that regard that an uncle gave me a plot that he already had at the cemetery and he did not charge me.

sue1955

My advice to the retirees is NOT to reduce your life insurance. Your heir(s) are going to have to get that payout quickly or assign part of your insurance to the funeral home (ahead of time) that is anticipated to be used when the time comes. Either that or have a lot of money in an account that can be liquidated quickly. My mother's funeral in April cost almost $12,000.00. That is the amount "just" to the funeral home. On top of that, there was $1,000.00 to the cemetery on the date of the funeral for the "opening/closing" (the official term for the cemetery to prepare the grave site and close it. Then, there is the marker or headstone to be picked out and arrangements for that with the cemetary.

If there is no spouse and real property (meaning a house and/or land), that is when the real work begins for the heir(s). I'm going through all of this now since my mother died. I'm living the nightmare that I knew was going to transpire since she made some poor choices and refused to face death.

So, retirees, PLEASE think ahead and TAKE ACTION on your end-of-life issues.
BTW, my comments are not a criticism of funeral homes in any way.

(My comments are not meant to start a discussion about cremation. I am not getting involved on that subject).

DickD

We bought our cemetery plot and headstone over 10 years ago. I refuse to pay for funeral expenses in advance.. Someone else will have to handle that. Insurance is needed, if you don't have the cash funds to meet expenses, but it does appear to me that your mother's funeral was on the expensive side, you don't need the most expensive casket that will be buried in the ground, inside a cement vault.

DogCatcher

Believe me, those costs were NOT the most expensive options. We just went through this not long ago with a relative and we chose very modest options - 11,630 not including cemetery costs. That was just the funeral home. And, BTW, the deceased (who had refused to discuss life insurance and the like) had only a 12,000.00 policy. PLEASE think this through in advance before you saddle your relatives with a burden that can be so easily avoided.

trwz

Thank you, Brad, April and Colleen, for always valuing the work of retired employees.

DickD

They are complaining about paying an extra $18. 25/mo. for $50.000 of life insurance? lol

Let them try to get cheaper insurance anywhere. They had to make over $50,000 to get this insurance. Now they get a pension and Social Security, probably this comes close to the $50,000, which is most likely less than what they earned while working.

There are many much worse off. Let me tell you about my sister's husband, who was a Catholic priest and what the church did to him; Nah, you would never believe it.

So, for $18.25 more that you have to pay, you would get an extra $25,000? That means if you live another 114 years you would be foolish to take it.

If you are going to live 20 years more and invested, you would need to get a real high return, that is your choice. But $24.85/ mo. is $298.20/ yr. If you get 5% interest, compounded yearly, you would have $11,022.55 after 20 years. You would need more than 11% guaranteed interest to equal the $25,000. But, the beauty about investment, you can use the balance anytime you like, insurance you can't.

Dwasserba

Wow Dick you're like an accountant.
I also always appreciate sue for sharing her experience.
We still carry life insurance in our sixties because our daughter is 19 and barely into the college years we anticipate paying for. Otherwise, we view it as protecting families against the jolt of losing a wage
earner and will eventually let it go.
The more I read, the more I appreciate that all four of our parents served in WWII, dads are gone, moms are in assisted living assisted by the VA.

DickD

I was an engineer and we had to price out our projects.

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