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EDITORIAL: Teachers deserve better than THT Health

Teachers shouldn’t have to worry about whether their insurance provider is capable of paying their bills. Unfortunately, their current option isn’t.

As the Review-Journal’s Rio Lacanlale reported last week, THT Health is out of money. Formerly known as the Teachers Health Trust, it’s what the district’s 18,000 teachers and families depend on for health insurance. The Clark County Education Association oversees the health trust, which provides coverage to 34,000 people. Or at least, it’s supposed to.

In a letter sent to medical providers, it acknowledges that it’s out of money to cover many prior claims.

“To be fully transparent, these claims are not currently funded,” the letter, which is from THT Health’s CEO Tom Zumtobel reads.

Interestingly, the union didn’t send out a similar notice to teachers. CCEA executive director John Vellardita claimed that’s because the union and THT Health are working to make sure teachers don’t bear the responsibility for this financial mismanagement.

“We’re going to make damn sure that people aren’t stuck with the bill,” he said.

That’s a fine sentiment. It would mean even more if it wasn’t coming from the leader of the group responsible for overseeing this slow-motion disaster.

THT Health’s financial problems aren’t new. In 2013, Mr. Vellardita said the trust would be “belly up in 60 to 90 days.” That obviously didn’t happen. The situation was dire enough though that a Review-Journal story noted the Nevada Department of Insurance would have stepped in had the situation involved a private company.

Financial problems with the health trust made the news in 2015 and 2017 as well. Now, the public knows THT Health had financial problems in 2019 as well.

Expenses from the coronavirus pandemic may have exacerbated these problems, but it by no means created the underlying issue. THT Health had $43 million in debt as of February. It’s unclear how much remains.

Now, Mr. Vellardita says saving the trust will depend on “fair investment” from the district — meaning taxpayers.

Mr. Vellardita shouldn’t be pointing fingers at anyone but himself and the union. Teacher compensation has increased significantly since 2013. If THT Health didn’t get want it needed to stay afloat, that’s his fault. It’s evidence that the union shouldn’t be running what is functionally a health insurance company.

Years of mismanagement is enough. The district should insist on replacing THT Health with a health insurance company that isn’t frequently on the verge of bankruptcy.

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