An Open Letter To The Amarillo Independent School District

This Open Letter to the Amarillo Independent School District has far more implications than just a story about a West Texas public school district’s failed efforts to reign in rising health insurance costs. It’s a story about a malaise affecting elected officials under status quo influence where nothing changes.

Josh Butler, a local Amarillo taxpayer and nationally recognized health insurance expert writes an excellent piece that, quite frankly, is one of the best we’ve seen. His open letter is representative of the continuing failure of elected officials everywhere to control health care costs when it’s been proven by others they can.

An Open Letter to AISD: Health Plan Alternatives

By Josh Butler

Think about this for a moment: Almost 5% of Amarillo’s entire population, representing thousands of families, is directly affected by the healthcare and benefits decisions made by Amarillo Independent School District (AISD) alone. These decisions have significant implications and warrant serious attention.

The recent decisions regarding healthcare benefits for Amarillo Independent School District (AISD) employees are alarming and require urgent reevaluation. The imposition of a 16% increase in medical insurance premiums on all plans and all employees, coupled with a staggering 50% rise in financial exposure on high deductible plans, effectively slashes the take-home pay of educators and staff. This is unacceptable. Furthermore, these changes come amidst District projections that despite these increases, a $5.2 million health plan budget deficit is still likely next year, signaling additional increases and financial burdens next year if significant action is not taken. For this reason alone, I’ve decided to speak up. Superintendent Loomis pointed out in the April 8th Board meeting:

“So for the next year, we can look at plan design changes and talk about how those affect us and whether that will help us get back into the black. But ultimately, at some point if we decide to stay self-funded, ok, if it’s 16% this year, and we know we really needed to be at 33% (increase), or 50% this year, we know next year’s gonna be another 16%, at bare minimum, unless you do drastic things with the plan.” (1:18 mark)

It is frustrating to see AISD continue down a path of financial escalation without exploring ALL possible alternatives. The narrative pushed by the district, that there are no other viable options but to increase rates and shift risk, or face TRS Active Care, is not only misleading but grossly inaccurate. As an established healthcare consultant in Amarillo and a nationally recognized leader in health plan innovation, I am advocating for an alternative that AISD has so far ignored.

High Plains Health Plan (HPHP), which we launched here in Amarillo, eliminates deductibles and copays for thousands of services, lowers premiums, and covers all generic medications. This plan is not a mere suggestion—it is a proven solution that has reduced healthcare costs, on average, by 22% for our clients while maintaining high levels of care and member satisfaction.

Moreover, our plan uses both a narrow network, and a national PPO network, in tandom. This ensures that AISD employees would have access to comprehensive care without the restrictive network barriers that are currently excluding certain healthcare providers in our local area. Why then, has AISD not taken the opportunity to explore this option? Why continue to burden our educators with higher costs when a feasible, cost-effective alternative is available? But more importantly, why are all options not being actively explored?

I have personally reached out to Superintendent Loomis and other AISD officials to discuss HPHP and have offered a free, detailed analysis tailored to meet the district’s needs. My attempts to engage have been met with silence. This lack of response is a disservice to the entire community, especially to those who educate and nurture our future generations.

I must emphasize that increasing premiums and shifting financial risk to our teachers should be the LAST resort, not the default strategy. If AISD has indeed explored other options, why has there been no disclosure of these investigations during public meetings, or alternative solutions shared? The community deserves transparency and accountability from its leaders.

The administration’s apparent indifference to seeking genuine solutions is deeply troubling. It is an affront to the dedicated individuals working under AISD who now face financial stress due to misguided leadership decisions. The time to act is now. We cannot allow our educators to suffer because of administrative inaction, lack of creativity in problem-solving, or their unwillingness to explore options. AISD CFO, Daniel West stated in the April 8th Board meeting, speaking about the District’s options to raise rates, or make even larger changes:

“We have a choice. If we choose to do nothing, which is a scenario we’ve outlined up there. The fear is that you will be limping into TRS two years from today because we’re not getting out of this contract before two years from today. So, we will limp into TRS, which we all agree is a worse plan with higher premiums.” (1:20 mark)

The District does have a choice, and it has more than just two options to choose from.

I urge AISD to respond to outreach, to consider HPHP as a serious alternative, and to engage in meaningful discussions about how to better serve their employees’ healthcare needs without further financial detriment. We owe it to our teachers, our community, and most importantly, our children.


Josh Butler, President
High Plains Health Plan, Butler Benefits & Consulting

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Josh Butler

Josh is the President of Butler Benefits & Consulting. Passionate about healthcare reform and helping employers save money while improving the quality of employee benefits. 

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