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Park and recreation districts in Illinois that are members of the Park District Risk Management Agency can access the pool's employee benefit plan.

PDRMA created the Illinois Park Employees Health Network in 1990 to offer employee benefits to workers and dependents of PDRMA members. The first year, 25 agencies with 400 to 500 employees and 600 to 700 dependents joined the pool.

IPEHN has grown to 52 members agencies covering about 1,000 employees and 1,500 dependents.

The health care pool is "a great benefit, especially for smaller employers," commented Betsy Kutska, executive director of PDRMA, which provides administrative services to IPEHN. "So many of our members are small groups," she added.

"The great thing that people like in this program is they have something to say about their coverage" and they have a wide range of choices under the plan," Ms. Kutska said.

IPEHN offers a choice of four deductibles ranging from $100 to $1,000 annually. Monthly premiums vary, depending on an employee's age, gender and whether the coverage is single or family coverage.

Premiums have risen a total of 5% over the six years of the pool.

IPEHN offers an indemnity medical plan with some managed care aspects, such as a preferred provider organization and precertification of surgery. Annual physicals and well-child care are covered and are not subject to deductibles and copayments, up to plan limits.

The plan sponsors an annual wellness institute for employees and dependents with sessions on topics such as stress management, healthy cooking and osteoporosis.

IPEHN is self-insured and uses a third-party administrator to process claims. IPEHN buys medical stop-loss insurance from Zurich American Insurance Co. in Schaumburg, Ill., which attaches at $100,000 for single claims.

The excess coverage has a $2 million per occurrence limit and an aggregate limit of $2.6 million.

The pool also offers group term life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.