With claims up, Grayslake District 127 looks to keep workers healthier

 
 
Updated 4/18/2017 3:59 PM
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  • An expected hike in employee medical insurance expenses has prompted Grayslake High School District 127 officials to consider how they can help keep workers healthier.

    An expected hike in employee medical insurance expenses has prompted Grayslake High School District 127 officials to consider how they can help keep workers healthier. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Grayslake High School District 127 Associate Superintendent Michael Zelek says employees' medical insurance claims are way up for the 2016-17 academic year.

    Grayslake High School District 127 Associate Superintendent Michael Zelek says employees' medical insurance claims are way up for the 2016-17 academic year.

An expected hike in employee medical insurance premiums has Grayslake High School District 127 officials looking into ways to keep workers healthier.

District 127 Associate Superintendent Michael Zelek addressed the medical benefits plan for workers while updating board of education members on budget projections.

"Our claims for our self-funded plan are extremely high," Zelek said told elected officials at a recent facilities and finance committee session. "At the six-month point, we hit the same amount of claims for all of last year. Right now, it's running at about a $330,000 deficit for the plan."

It's been the "first bad year" for health insurance claims since about 2003, Zelek added. The number of claims are expected to lead to a 22 percent cost increase for employee benefits, which were budgeted at $5.7 million for the 2016-17 academic season.

"One year is not a trend," Zelek said, "especially since we've had 14 years of a really good claim history. We just want to make sure we don't really reduce the benefits to our staff until we see at least one more year and see what that looks like. That would be the only way you can save on premiums."

In response to Zelek's presentation, District 127 board member Russell Chamberlin and others suggested exploring a formal incentive program to improve employee and dependent health in an effort to reduce insurance claims. Chamberlin cited his experience as a golf course superintendent for the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

"What we do at the forest preserve is health and wellness," Chamberlin said. "Running, or we do special (wellness) events to keep our staff healthier."

Some workers at Grayslake Central and North high schools participate in informal health initiatives. District 127 Superintendent Catherine Finger said teachers have been known to lead Zumba or yoga classes at Grayslake North and that both campuses have an annual wellness day.

"There are informal pieces," Finger said. "We don't have a giant district initiative. Over different years, we have had bigger (unofficial) programs, but we always have something going on. But the idea of having something more concentrated is something to look at."

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