School board receives update on unpaid health insurance claims

The Clark County School District educator health insurance provider is working to resolve the issues of 44 members who were in collections due to unpaid medical claims.

THT Health officials provided updates Thursday to the Clark County School Board.

Of the 44 members identified as part of the collections, 13 of those cases have been resolved, said THT Health CEO Tom Zumtobel.

That means a member’s health care provider has been paid and the collection agency’s notice has been withdrawn, he said, noting that there is also no default on his credit report.

THT is in the process of reconciling collection issues for the remaining 31 members.

“We understand that it is not acceptable that even 44 people have experienced this and we are ashamed of that,” Zumtobel said. “It was our fault, and we accept it.”

THT is the insurance provider for approximately 34,000 people – licensed educators and their family members – and is overseen by the Clark County Education Association teachers’ union.

For months, teachers have been showing up at school board meetings to voice their concerns about THT Health, including that their medical claims were not being paid and they were therefore being dropped as patients by providers.

THT’s submission of the updates was required as part of a memorandum of understanding announced in October between the school district and the teachers’ union.

The agreement included financial transparency and other requirements that the health trust must meet, including settling outstanding claims and resolving employee medical debt within certain timeframes.

The district provided a $35 million advance to the health trust in May, which must be repaid by June 30, 2024.

The health trust launched a communications campaign in November in an effort to find educators who have been sued or threatened because “THT is not paying our bills in a timely manner,” Zumtobel said.

As a result, 877 educators identified themselves via email as having collection issues, he said. Once the duplicate entries were identified, THT contacted the 847 people and contacted their suppliers.

The number of members who were in collections, 44, hasn’t increased recently, Zumtobel said, but the trust wants to know if anyone else is affected and will fix it.

He said he was very confident that no additional educators would be put into the collections.

Ongoing litigation

Zumtobel said he was pleased with the progress the health trust has made in resolving collection issues and that the issues have occurred on a small scale.

He said he believed the small scale was due to local doctors respecting local educators. Without it, there would have been bigger problems because THT was at fault, he added.

Of the $5 million the school district allocated to recoveries reconciliation, $113,000 was used for the 13 members whose recoveries status was resolved.

The health trust has used $412,000 to pay providers whose members have been threatened with being sent to collections, and $129,000 is allocated to 31 members whose collection negotiations are ongoing.

And $1.6 million is for two major vendors who threatened to send the entire practice to collections or pursue lawsuits, Zumtobel said, noting that’s money THT already owed them.

There was a different vendor before the communications campaign that aggressively handed over all educators to collections, he said.

Now all of those claims have been paid and the collection notices have been withdrawn, Zumtobel said. THT is still in dispute with the supplier, which is no longer in the network, he said.

In June, THT Health had $55 million in unpaid claims. Now he has about $35 million, Zumtobel said, calling it “really huge progress.”

Of the remaining amount, 65% involves two major suppliers, he said, noting that THT is well advanced in those negotiations.

A few trustees told health trust officials they had made great progress.

Trustee Danielle Ford told them she appreciated their transparency and willingness to take ownership of the situation, not hide it and make no excuses. She said it helped her have confidence in the health trust going forward.

Chronic absenteeism

The board heard presentations on three areas of the district’s Focus:2024 strategic plan – chronic absenteeism, graduation rates, and college geometry and algebra enrollment.

The district’s chronic absenteeism rate — how many students are absent for 10% or more of enrolled school days — is 37.1% this school year. This is significantly more than the district’s goal of 16.9% under the strategic plan.

“Frankly, we didn’t meet our targets,” Assistant Superintendent John Anzalone said.

The definition of chronic absenteeism is established by the US Department of Education and includes excused and unexcused absences, said Mike Barton, manager of college, career, equity and school choice.

The last time the board heard an update on chronic absenteeism was in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Barton said.

The district was on a trajectory of improving chronic absenteeism rates before the pandemic, he said, with a rate of 18.4% in the 2019-20 school year.

The context has changed, Barton said, noting that students are asked to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive or are in quarantine.

Additionally, the school district operated at less than 100% distance learning for about a year beginning in March 2020 before bringing students back for at least some in-person classes in the spring of 2021, which affected reports of attendance. Schools are operating with full-time in-person classes this school year.

The district’s chronic truancy rate this school year ranges from 19% among Asian American students to 46.5% among black students.

The 27.5% gap between these groups of students is well above the strategic plan target of 9.3%.

District officials shared a comparison with other large school districts, but said some districts did not report data during some pandemic school years, while the Clark County School District did.

The district’s chronic truancy rate of 33.9% last year was higher than school districts in Denver, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County and San Diego, according to meeting documents.

Administrator Evelyn Garcia Morales said she appreciated the public’s comments on the agenda item that chronic absenteeism is a community problem fueled by poverty.

She said that in her experience, she has encountered students who are chronically absent for a variety of reasons, including high school students who have to leave the classroom to take their younger siblings to school because their parents are working. .

This signals a need for affordable child care, Morales said, noting that “our families have needs.”

$9 million settlement

Trustees voted unanimously under the consent agenda to approve a $9 million settlement agreement in a court case involving Michael Banco, a former special education school bus driver who was sentenced in 2018 to serve 35 years to life in prison for sexually abusing preschoolers.

A lawsuit in October 2020 was filed in the United States District Court by the parents on behalf of two siblings, who were 3 and 5 at the time of the assaults in 2015, according to court documents.

In an emailed statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, attorney Anthony Sgro, who represented the parents and their children, said, “While no amount of money can ever compensate for what happened to our very young clients, we are thrilled that the Clark County School District has taken responsibility. We remain hopeful that this case will inspire the school district to better protect our children from predators like Michael Banco.”

school safety

Students, staff and parents weighed in during the public comment period on the school district’s decision to lift the mask mandate — following Gov. Steve Sisolak’s statewide announcement on Thursday — and have expressed concerns about school safety and violence issues.

Benjamin Gonzalez, a student at Cram Middle School, told the board he wanted “better, safer schools.”

“I don’t like seeing my family suffer anymore,” he said. “I really do not know.”

Benjamin said he wants to learn and achieve his work and life goals. He said he was trying to do his best in school, but there was too much going on around him to concentrate.

Student Lauren Gomez, who did not say where she attended school, said she saw girls pulling others by the hair and was threatened by classmates saying that they were going to beat her, so she constantly looks over her shoulder.

The teachers aren’t doing anything about it, she said, noting her friend was getting beaten up and her classmates were laughing. The only thing the teacher said was “hey, hey, hey, get down,” she added.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at [email protected] or 702-387-2921. To follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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