As the Beaufort County School District considers passing the cost of athletic insurance on to students in the 2015-16 school year, it managed to save money on its new policy.
But even with the reduced cost, athletic insurance would cost students about $70 a year.
Although that is less than the roughly $85 students would have paid based on the old contract, superintendent Jeff Moss said he was hoping for greater savings.
District officials say they will continue to search for cheaper options and to consider subsidizing any fee it charges students.
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The new annual insurance contract, awarded at the end of July, is for $286,930 with Bollinger Specialty Group, the same company that insured district athletes last school year. The new policy will save more than $50,000 from its previous contract of $343,165.
"I think we were able to realize some savings," district student services chief Gregory McCord said. "The goal is to see what can be done to not only decrease costs, but to minimize passing those costs on to students."
In Beaufort County's public schools, there are 2,784 high school student athletes and 1,270 middle school athletes, according to risk manager Jennifer Staton.
The district received only two bids for the insurance. Moss said a third proposal, which would have reduced costs further, arrived after bidding had closed. For that reason, the district signed only a one-year contract with Bollinger, Staton said.
"We want to be able to put the contract out to bid again next year to see if we could negotiate a cheaper price for the coverage, especially if we implement a fee for students," she said. "We didn't want to be locked in."
Whatever the cost, it won't necessarily be passed on to student-athletes. However, the Board of Education and district officials continue to discuss the possibility of charging all student-athletes a fee to play sports.
Board chairman Bill Evans has said he wants to tell families what that fee will be as soon as possible so they can prepare for it.
"I think with anything that is going to impact students and student athletes, we need to make those decisions by April, as much as possible," Moss said.
To obtain a lower cost, the district's new insurance policy will provide less coverage than the old one. The policy covers 70 percent of an eligible medical bill, down from 80 percent. With a medical bill of $100, for example, the insurance would cover $70, according to Staton.
The insurance covers claims up to $25,000. It serves as supplemental insurance for families that already have coverage, and primary insurance for those that do not.
If the district bids out the contract again next year, it might consider a coverage rate of 60 percent, Staton said.
"A lot of districts provide 60 percent coverage, but we thought that was too big of a drop in one year," she said. "So the 70 percent seemed like a step in the right direction, because providing this coverage and insurance has become so expensive. But we think it is important to continue to do so."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.