The Board of Education tonight unanimously approved a three-year agreement with three of the school system’s four employee bargaining units to change the structure of prescription drug co-pays over the next three years in a move that will save the school system about $400,000.
The agreement with the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC), the Association of Educational Leaders (AEL), and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) creates a fourth tier for specialty drug prescriptions and increases co-pays across two of the other tiers beginning January 1, 2018. AACPS changed the prescription co-pay structure for retirees in January 2016 and did the same for all active non-represented employees in July 2016.
The plan approved by the Board tonight calls for generic prescription co-pays to remain at $5 through 2020. Preferred brand prescriptions would increase to $20 and non-preferred brand prescriptions would increase to $35 and remain there through the length of the agreement.
Specialty prescriptions – defined in the plan as injectables with the exception of insulin – would have, subject to plan caps, a $50 co-pay in 2018, a $65 co-pay in 2019, and a $75 co-pay in 2020. The agreement allows for the definition of “specialty prescriptions” to be altered after January 1, 2019.
The move is the latest in Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ efforts to contain and reduce healthcare costs as the school system grapples with a multimillion-dollar structural deficit in its healthcare fund. The deficit has come about due to rapidly rising costs of prescription drugs and medical care, increased enrollment of AACPS employees, retirees, and dependents, and prior decisions by others to redirect funds to different areas of the school system’s budget.
“As we have addressed the issues surrounding our healthcare fund, we have talked at length about the need to take multiple steps to get the fund back on solid footing,” Board President Stacy Korbelak said. “This is another of those steps, and one that gets us closer to our goal. There is much more work to be done, however, and we are going to need the continued collaboration of all of our bargaining units to get us to the place where we need to be.”
The co-pay agreement comes two months after the Board’s approval of a healthcare contract with CareFirst that will save the school system $16.9 million over a three-year period beginning in January 2018.
School system officials and consultant Aon Hewitt negotiated that new contract with CareFirst over a period of several months to garner more favorable pricing for prescription drug benefits and stabilize administrative fees. The contract also maintains Wellness Program support and the Employee Assistance Program at no increased cost to the school district.