Koloen: School Board Should Question Health Care Costs

Jim Koloen (appeared in the Capital Times):

Dear Editor: It is perplexing that the Madison School Board can approve a labor contract without actually having read it except through a summary provided by the administration. Why bother with a board at all if it simply behaves as though the administration and the board are one and the same? The words “rubber stamp” come to mind.

Evidently another contract ( five year transportation) was approved on May 2 – without presentation of the full financial details. (9 minute video clip of the discussion – the award was approved 4 – 2 with Kobza & Robarts voting against it due to lack of information. Check out the video). Generally, I think a five year deal is not a bad idea, IF all of the costs & benefits are known.

My real question, however, pertains to the district’s payment of $1,358 per month for families through WPS Health Insurance under the contract for the clerical and technical bargaining group. I hope board members will question this amount, which seems to me to be a very high figure, especially when compared to the $1,013 per month family plan payment assessed for the Dean Care HMO insurance under the state employee annuity system. The WPS premium is 34 percent higher than the Dean Care that I pay for, which, by the way, has no co-pays or deductibles for office visits or other medical services and only a small co-pay for drugs.
In short, I can’t imagine what type of service the extra 34 percent in costs would represent. Could it be routine dental services? My family gets that. Could it be counseling services? We get that. Could it be eye exams? We get that. Could it be … Well, I ask the board, what could it be?
That is not to say that Dean Care is even a particularly reasonably priced provider; rather I use it as an example because I have long experience with its system.
It is no wonder the board can’t make ends meet and feels it is necessary to repeatedly bludgeon us with threats to the strings program, or increases in athletic fees, or just about anything except an actual decrease in costs.
In this way the board can once again foist upon the electorate a referendum cynically scheduled to minimize voter participation, and thus convince themselves they’ll get a result that is favorable to the board and to the administration and to the teachers, although not likely to anyone else.
The problem will not be solved with this referendum any more than it was after the previous one. Throwing money at the problem, in fact, is part of the problem. Rather than scheduling referendums, what the board should be doing is scrutinizing costs such as health care, which I’m sure take up an increasingly large chunk of the overall budget, and then looking for alternative providers who even in my own limited personal experience seem to be able to offer just as much for much less.
Jim Koloen
Published: 8:17 AM 5/7/05