The city’s school district failed to make payment to its vision insurance provider resulting in a lapse of coverage for more than 3,000 teachers and staff members.
John McEntee, president of the Paterson Education Association, said union members found out about the lapse in coverage while attempting to visit eye doctors. Doctors were cancelling appointments on teachers because they were no longer covered, he said.
“Think about how crazy this is,” said McEntee. He said he learned about the lapse in coverage from a member on Thursday night. He contacted the district’s vision provider VSP Vision Care which said coverage has lapsed due to lack of payment from the district. He and other members of the union sent emails to state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans to rectify the issue.
Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the Paterson Public Schools, said the payment issue has been resolved with the provider. She said the district has been assured on Friday that service will be returned to normal on Monday. It remains unclear what resulted in the payment lapse that led to the coverage disruption for 3,100 district employees.
“It’s disappointing. It’s disturbing not just because it went unnoticed, but because it affects the lives of people who really do a lot of hard work for us. They’re the backbone of our system,” said school board president Christopher Irving. “I’m happy and relieved that we’ve been able to quickly deal with this issue. I sincerely apologize to anyone that was disproportionately affected.”
The district’s insurance broker Conner Strong & Buckelew helped in the quick resolution of the issue, said Corallo. She said district is looking into the question of how this lapse occurred. It’s also not clear how long the employees were without coverage.
McEntee said a staffer at the provider told him for quite some time bills have been going unpaid until service had to be cut. He said the superintendent provided a terse response without taking responsibility for the missed payment or issuing an apology to the impacted teachers and staff members. He alleged the coverage lapse seems to be calculated step taken by the district.
“He never told us why,” said McEntee speaking about Evans. He was not told there was a payment issue; he found that out by calling the provider and getting other teachers to contact the company, he said.
“Now I have to find out if anyone had to pay out of pocket,” said McEntee. The district, which is required to provide vision coverage to employees under its collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union, may have to provide reimbursements to teachers have they paid out of pocket for eye care.