School district gets big health insurance rebate

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When was the last time you got money back from your health insurance provider? You might now be and so is the Sarasota County School District. More than $800,000 rebated from their company.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has just sending the check. "As far as getting a rebate like this it's the first time ever." Financial Officer for the school district Al Weidner says it's all due to a provision in the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act. "Because of the new health care law the insurance company can only keep 15% for administrative purposes."

The rest has to go towards actual health care for those they cover. Blue Cross along with many others are writing checks. Nationwide it's believed more a billion dollars will be going back to 12.8 million Americans according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Weidner says their share will be saved for down the road. "The $805,000 will go to offsetting that increase. It will actually reduce out cost for the 2013 calendar year."

School leaders say they are seeing other changes in the health care overhaul that are turning out to be positive for them. For the first time the 4,000 people under the districts plan will have preventative care coverage such as mammograms and colonoscopy training. A big improvement Weidner says considering between the districts contributions and their employees they still pay more than $40 million a year for health care coverage. In the past the district had no idea how much their insurance company was making off of them. "It's more transparent. That is a good thing. Transparency is always a good thing. That will be a plus I think. Hopefully that will drive down the overall costs in the future."

Some industry experts we talked to believe the rebates are short term and will likely cause prices to rise higher to make up the difference. Weidner says while it is very early the changes have saved them some much needed money for now. "It has helped in our case. There is no question about it."

This year the Sarasota County School Board approved the use of up to $14 million in savings to help balance its budget.