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Dec 6

The faculty and staff at Olin College of Engineering are getting a rare and unexpected holiday treat this month: a break from health insurance.

Olin College officials said they’ve made so much progress in curbing health care costs this year that their employees don’t have to pay any premiums in December.

For 96 people who work at the small Needham college, that means extra cash they can use for holiday shopping, or anything else.

Olin is one of a dozen local colleges and universities that have teamed up to cut health insurance costs. Instead of buying coverage from insurers, they formed their own insurance company, sharing the costs and risks for their combined 10,000 employees.

When those employees stay fairly healthy and medical claims are low, the schools save on insurance costs.

The consortium, called EdHealth, includes colleges and universities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and is in “active communications” with schools in seven other states

At Olin, the average employee is saving $274 on premiums this month, the college said.

“We expected savings through this program,” executive vice president Stephen Hannabury said in a statement, “but these results have exceeded all of our expectations, and we wanted to share those extra savings with employees.”

That’s not bad for a little Christmas bonus.

PRIYANKA DAYAL McCLUSKEY, The Boston Globe

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