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Gardner, schools differ on savings

County attorney estimates $1M savings for Medicare switch

— County officials don’t often get involved in school budget decisions, but Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner is proposing healthcare savings that districts don’t believe will make a significant dent.

Gardner reached out to the nine school districts within the county after proposed layoffs reached well into double digits at the majority of school districts, with Niskayuna Central School district proposing the largest cuts with more than 80 full-time equivalent positions on the chopping block.

Gardner is proposing school districts change to the Medicare Advantage Plan, which he roughly estimates could save each district $1 million annually. Some area school officials have voiced concerns the savings won’t be the big-ticket budget fix Gardner suggests.

Gardner gave a presentation on Monday, April 2, to the Schenectady County Legislature during a committee meeting. He estimated there were more than 250 proposed layoffs throughout the county’s schools.

“The more I investigated it the more it seemed they weren’t using the Medicare Advantage Plan and it could help (avoid) the trauma of some of the layoffs be anticipated,” he said. “Hopefully, maybe something can be done in the next month or two so they could meet their budget targets in another fashion.”

Schalmont and Mohonasen school districts are already using the Medicare Advantage Plan, but Gardner found Niskayuna and Scotia-Glenville school districts aren’t using it. The county is projected to save more than $3.8 million this year fully utilizing the plan.

School districts would have to negotiate the change of coverage with unions.

“The unions that the school districts have to deal with may not be totally familiar with it but I think they would be receptive once it is explained to them,” Gardner said. “It is just a matter of maximizing your dollars under the federal subsidies that are out there.”

Gardner said in the old wraparound plans Medicare is primary, paying 80 percent of hospital and medical costs, and then 20 percent is covered by the district’s regular medical plan along with prescription drug coverage. In the Medicare Advantage Plan he’s proposing, Medicare would cover everything.

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