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ACA and School Health Insurance…


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has completely “Changed the Game” in regards to the health insurance benefits that MREA schools provide to their faculty and staff!!

Since the health insurance presentations that occurred at our MREA summer meetings in Billings, our Board of Directors has been involved in a series of discussions with state-level experts on the tremendous changes that will impact and affect our member schools across our state as they consider the various health insurance renewal issues that are a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The new ACA regulations place “Insurance Trusts” such as MUST in a new and very advantageous position…they appear to be the only insurance option that will enable Montana schools to offer insurance benefits in the traditional “group policy” framework that schools negotiated with their staffs and that they have utilized for many years. 

As a result of these dramatic and wide-sweeping changes the MREA Board of Directors has announced that our state association will be endorsing the MUST (Montana Unified School Trust) Insurance Program, now that Blue Cross/Blue Shield is serving as TPA (BCBS will actually “administer” the program) as the best insurance option for our members to seriously consider.   This decision by the MREA Board is MUCH more than just an “endorsement ” of the program….MREA is already involved in building a solid  working relationship with the leadership of  MUST in  our efforts to represent our small/rural school members with this group.

Here are some of the factors that were part of the MREA Board’s Decision to Support MUST:

  • MREA’s past concerns regarding the stability of MUST have been addressed.  MUST has taken significant steps to lower  their “stop-loss” re-insurance  and BCBS recently assumed all TPA responsibilities which provides the program with tremendous options and advantages (i.e. the BCBS Provider Network!).
  • Small/Rural School Representation - MUST has agreed to place MREA appointees on their governing Board.
  • BCBS Themselves will soon release renewal information to schools that highlight and include MUST as an important option for schools to consider.
  • ACA Changed the Game! - Due to the new federal ACA, Insurance TRUSTS (such as MUST) are the only apparent vehicle left which will enable schools to offer the traditional benefits and policies that have been agreed to/negotiated by our local schools.
  • Provider Network Issues - Serious questions are surfacing regarding the disparate differences between the “provider networks” provided by BCBS as compared to that offered by other Montana Insurance Trusts.  Sources here in Helena describe these differences as “significant” and “dramatic”.  Not only is there apparently a large difference in the amount of the actual discounts, but there are large areas of the state (mostly rural?) where other non-BCBS provider networks are “weak” or non-existent.   The BCBS network includes 95% of all Montana physicians and 100% of all hospitals... MUST has full access to these providers.

    • In short, schools leaving BCBS for Insurance Trusts other than MUST could cause school employees to be hit with significantly reduced discounts and significantly higher out-of-pocket expenses in (rural?) areas where no approved providers are available.

  • “Large Pool” Issues – Those schools opting to avoid moving to a trust and opting to stay with the “large pool”, which will involve many other groups besides schools, may be confronted with a number of  negotiation-related issues since rates will be provided to schools by INDIVIDUAL….no “single rate” or “family rate” will be available from the provider.
  • Access to State Clinics - MUST has announced that their enrollees will soon have access to the new State of Montana Clinics designed for state employees.
  • No Assessment Obligation - MUST has introduced a new program whereby schools can enroll in the Trust WITHOUT any obligation for future assessments.  These schools must agree to stay with MUST for a minimum of three years.
  • Working Together - We have heard repeatedly from our members since the successful passage of SB 175 that they want to see MORE of this kind of collaboration between the major associations representing K-12 Education here at the Capitol.  Health Insurance has been one of the MOST DIVISIVE issues between our groups in the past.  MREA’s endorsement of MUST…WITH the support of BCBS as the programs TPA, directly addresses this member priority and concern.


Montana Cooperative Services (MCS) Announces New Products, Services and Vendors

As part of our national affiliation with AEPA, MREA and MCS are pleased to announce that new partner companies have been awarded contracts and great steps have been taken recently with our member states to continue to improve our national AEPA organization as a whole.

Another major change that will directly benefit our Montana schools involved changes made to the general terms and conditions of partner company contract agreements. AEPA (and MCS here in Montana) have now made it VERY clear that AEPA will ONLY award contracts to partner companies that “offer prices equal to or lower than what they ordinarily offer on separate contracts that have equal or lesser volume.” This change was implemented to ensure that all of our member schools are receiving the lowest price possible.

New Partners, Products and Services for Schools!

Interior Systems (Furniture) – Interior Systems Inc. was established in 1979 and has been an industry leader in Restaurant, Retail, and Education interior design/build solutions ever since. In the education sector, they specialize in Food Service Solutions. Their products and designs aim to maximize seating capacity, improve experience, and boost school spirit with a modern dining experience.

Troxell Communications (Interactive Classroom) – Troxell Communications is the largest privately held Audio/Visual (AV) company in the U.S. and the classroom technology leader in K-12 and Higher Education. They provide thousands of product offerings in both traditional and emerging brands to provide AV solutions for Classrooms, Auditoriums, Meeting Rooms, Libraries, and Hallways.

School Specialty – School Specialty continues to expand their AEPA categories this year in Industrial Arts & Career Technology and also Sports/Athletic Equipment. They were also awarded renewed contracts in the Furniture and Classroom Supplies categories.

(Industrial Arts & Career Technology) - Their Brodhead Garrett line provides a wide range of products from furniture, to safety, to woodworking, welding, general supply, and automotive. This brand has been providing high-quality Industrial Arts and Career Tech. products for 100 years.

(Sports/Athletic Equipment) - Their Sportime line offers over 3,000 items to meet your physical education supply needs and goals. With product offerings ranging from basketball and volleyball, to floor hockey, and weight training. School Specialty’s Sportime line of Sports/Athletic Equipment is sure to have a product for you.

MCS and AEPA have also extended contracts with many of our other familiar MCS-AEPA partner companies in all categories:

• Office and Classroom Supply- Staples, Point Nationwide, Quill, & School Specialty
• Custodial/Janitorial Supplies– Staples
• Modular Buildings– Williams Scotsman & Modern Building
• Facilities/IT Management Software– School Dude
• Athletic Fields, Tracks, & Courts– FieldTurf USA, ProGrass, Sport Surfaces Dist., & UBU Sports
• Kitchen Supplies– Quill
• Mobile Learning Solutions– Mackin Educational Resources, Smart Horizons, Edutone, & eInstruction.
• Musical Instruments– Peripole
• Scoreboard & Marquee Signage– Daktronics
• Roofing– Progressive Roofing & Tremco/WTI
• Medicaid Billing– Sivic Solutions
• Athletic Lighting– Techline Sports Lighting
• Copiers– Konica Minolta & Kyocera Mita

Many of these partner companies are implementing new marketing plans and also adding some new products to their lineup in order to better serve AEPA and thus bring increased savings and service to its members.

For more information on MCS, or these recent developments, contact:

Andy Garland
MREA-MCS Member Services Director
E-Mail: agarland@mrea-mt.oprg
Phone: 406.207.0510

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