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Mason City School District reviewing controversial health plan

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After backlash from teachers and resistance from health care providers Mason City Schools is evaluating the merits of a health benefit and coverage plan called TrueCost.

"We've tried to be creative in thinking of ways to contain costs, and we think the TrueCost health plan is an innovative idea whose time has come - but may be too progressive right now," Superintendent Dr. Gail Kist-Kline, said in a press release.

The Mason Education Association, the union representing Mason's teachers, filed a class action grievance with the district claiming that the negotiated agreement between the Board and MEA has been violated in several ways when the school district adopted TrueCost.

The union said the teachers' contract does not allow the Board to make unilateral changes in healthcare, and requires a vote by the membership for modifications in healthcare coverage and program design.

TrueCost is a product designed by Custom Design Benefits, a Cincinnati based benefits provider business, that pays Medicare rates plus an additional 40 percent.

In addition, many healthcare providers that negotiate their rates with insurance companies stated they would not accept TrueCost according to teachers in the district.

"The elimination of a healthcare carrier - and implementing a balanced billing approach - has placed numerous obstacles in front of our members, and many cannot access their providers or receive the medical care they need, " said Karrie Strickland, president of the MEA.

In response to the complaints of the MEA and teachers, the school district's treasurer, Richard Gardner, said it was never the intention for employees to see a disruption of their healthcare services.

"We were unprepared for the backlash from some local hospitals and doctors' offices," Gardner said.

Kist-Line said the district is prepared to work with employees to resolve any issues they have encountered due to the adoption of TrueCost.

Stay with 9 On Your Side and WCPO.com for updates on this developing story.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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