2 unions side with school board in suit over health care contract

October 13, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Two employee unions have aligned themselves with the Anne Arundel County school board in a lawsuit filed by a health care company that contends its contract proposal was improperly rejected.

On Oct. 1, UnitedHealthCare asked the Anne Arundel Circuit Court to compel the county school board and superintendent to award the company a five-year, $15 million contract to administer a "preferred-provider" health care plan.

Members of four unions representing school system employees opposed the contract with United, stating that the current provider, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, was named specifically in their negotiated agreements.

At its Sept. 15 meeting, the board chose to reject all bids and to negotiate with its current administrator, CareFirst, to offer its services for one more year.

The teachers union asked to be named as a defendant in the lawsuit because members want to protect the contract they signed with the school board, said Kristy K. Anderson, attorney for the Maryland State Teachers Association.

In an order issued yesterday, Circuit Judge David S. Bruce also allowed CareFirst and the union representing principals and school-based administrators to intervene in the suit.

Union leaders also requested a restraining order to prevent the school board from signing a contract with UnitedHealthCare. Circuit Judge Philip T. Caroom issued a restraining order last week prohibiting the school system from approving a contract with CareFirst.

Yesterday, Bruce also approved an agreement among attorneys for the school board, the schools superintendent and UnitedHealthCare stating that the board will not enter into any health care contracts until Oct. 22 or a resolution of the bid protest filed by United, whichever comes later.

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