Analysis: Michigan Teachers Union & Its Health Insurance Trust Raked In at Least $11 Million in Small Business Bailout Money

Mike Antonucci: When I wrote that the National Education Association and its state affiliates were big business, I got it only half-right. It turns out they are small business, too. Under public pressure, the federal government released a partial list of fund recipients from the Paycheck Protection Program, a project created as part of a package … Continue reading Analysis: Michigan Teachers Union & Its Health Insurance Trust Raked In at Least $11 Million in Small Business Bailout Money

Madison School Board members want to keep staff with current health insurance provider, add deductible

Scott Girard: At the same time, MMSD has increased base pay more than surrounding districts in recent years, according to the presentation. Board members said maintaining that competitive advantage in recruitment is important. “Our health care is one of the biggest elements of competitiveness for staff in the area,” Toews said. “It’s an area I … Continue reading Madison School Board members want to keep staff with current health insurance provider, add deductible

Employee health insurance, referenda discussions on Madison School Board agenda Monday

Scott Girard: The Madison School Board will discuss the potential November referenda and proposed employee health insurance changes Monday. The Operations Work Group meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. at the Doyle Administration Building, 545 W. Dayton St., is likely the last opportunity for board members to ask for broad changes ahead of anticipated votes … Continue reading Employee health insurance, referenda discussions on Madison School Board agenda Monday

Rising health insurance deductibles fuel middle-class anger and resentment

Noam Levey: Denise Wall, a Fresno-area schoolteacher with more than $2,000 in medical bills, was outraged to hear she could get free care if she quit her job and enrolled her family in Medicaid. Brenda Bartlett, a factory worker in Nebraska, was so angry about $2,500 in medical bills she ran up using the coverage … Continue reading Rising health insurance deductibles fuel middle-class anger and resentment

Wisconsin Act 10 Commentary: Madison schools are near the low end of what districts now require for teacher health insurance premium contributions, at 3 percent,

Mark Sommerhauser: Wisconsin school districts ratcheted up health care costs on teachers and other employees after the state’s Act 10 collective bargaining changes, with the average district now requiring teachers to pay about 12 percent of their health insurance premiums, newly released data show. Madison schools are near the low end of what districts now … Continue reading Wisconsin Act 10 Commentary: Madison schools are near the low end of what districts now require for teacher health insurance premium contributions, at 3 percent,

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Cost Of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Rises Toward $19,000 a Year

Anna Wilde Mathews: The average cost of health coverage offered by employers pushed toward $19,000 for a family plan this year, while the share of firms providing insurance to workers continued to edge lower, according to a major survey. Annual premiums rose 3% to $18,764 for an employer plan in 2017, from $18,142 last year, … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Cost Of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Rises Toward $19,000 a Year

Madison School Board OKs big change in employee health insurance options

Karen Rivedal: Employees of the Madison School District will have one fewer health insurance provider to choose from, requiring just over 1,000 employees to find a new primary care doctor. But the estimated $3 million the district will save from dropping Unity, its highest-cost provider, will help bankroll increased compensation for the district’s roughly 4,000 … Continue reading Madison School Board OKs big change in employee health insurance options

K-12 Tax & Spending Climates: Illinois Plans 43 to 55% Health Insurance Increases

Lisa Schencker: Illinois consumers are one step closer to facing sky-high increases for individual health insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. The Illinois Department of Insurance said Wednesday it has submitted rate increases to the federal government that for some types of plans average 43 percent to 55 percent. The Center for … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climates: Illinois Plans 43 to 55% Health Insurance Increases

K-12 Tax And Spending Climate: Report Warns of Rising Health Insurance Premiums (25% Of Madison’s 2014-2015 Budget Spent On Benefits)

Swinn: Premiums for employment-based health insurance this year will average about $6,400 for single coverage and $15,500 for family coverage, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation. In a new report, the CBO says average premiums for individually purchased insurance are also high, although not quite as … Continue reading K-12 Tax And Spending Climate: Report Warns of Rising Health Insurance Premiums (25% Of Madison’s 2014-2015 Budget Spent On Benefits)

Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the Madison School District budget

Madison School District (PDF): MMSD will spend $61 million on health insurance this year. One of Every Six Dollars is Spent on Health Insurance in the MMSD budget. Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the MMSD budget. Over 3,900 employees are enrolled in the MMSD plan The MMSD plan design lacks common features that … Continue reading Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the Madison School District budget

MTI & District Working to Freeze Health Insurance Premiums

Madison Teachers, Inc., via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email (PDF): MTI Executive Director John Matthews and MMSD Asst. Superintendent for Finance Mike Barry, along with District HR Director Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff and Benefits Manager Sharon Hennessy, have met with representatives of the three firms (Unity, GHC and Dean Health) which provide health insurance for District employees, … Continue reading MTI & District Working to Freeze Health Insurance Premiums

Health insurance changes a cure for what ails Madison schools budget?



Christ Rickert

The Madison School District won an historic concession from its teachers union over the last two years — the ability to require that teachers pay part of their health insurance premiums.
It came as the district was quickly extending union contracts before a law eliminating most collective bargaining rights took effect, and again while that law was held up in court.
But now as the district goes about crafting a 2013-14 budget that — among other cost-savings measures — reduces maintenance spending, freezes equipment budgets and includes no money for new efforts to close the district’s achievement gap, it doesn’t appear there’s much interest in implementing the concession.
The budget proposal from new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham doesn’t subject teachers to health insurance premiums, and that’s fine with School Board President Ed Hughes.
“Because of our recent transitions, this was not the budget to take up significant changes to our structure of salary and benefits,” he said in an email. “I and other board members are looking forward to an in-depth review of salary and benefit levels as part of next year’s budget, when we’ll have the benefit of input from Jen Cheatham and (assistant superintendent for business services) Mike Barry, as well as from our affected teachers and staff. I’m sure that health insurance contributions will be part of that discussion.”
“Recent transitions” didn’t keep Cheatham from proposing changes to the district’s salary schedules, though.

Madison’s expensive approach to healthcare benefits are not a new subject.
Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 plans for spending and property tax increases, here.
Mr. Hughes in 2005

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Health Insurance

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email (PDF):

Since the late 1960’s, MTI members have had the benefit of the best health insurance available. Stressing the importance of having quality health insurance in providing economic security, members have made known that health insurance is their #1 priority via their responses to the Union’s Bargaining Survey. And, the Union not only was able to bargain specific benefits, such as acupuncture and extended mental health coverage, as demanded by MTI members, but due to a 1983 MTI victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, MTI was able to have an equal voice in which insurance company would provide the plan. This is important because varied insurance companies have different interpretations of the same insurance provisions.
Unfortunately, the District Administration took advantage of the increased leverage in negotiations enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10, and forced concessions in health insurance and other Contract provisions, in exchange for agreeing to Collective Bargaining Agreements for MTI’s five bargaining units through June 2014.
Members who elected Physicians Plus health insurance under the revisions made by the District, will now lose that coverage June 30, 2013. For coverage effective July 1, options available are via Dean Health Plan, Group Health Cooperative and Unity. Each offers an HMO and a Point of Service Plan. The Point of Service enables greater coverage options, but at a higher premium.
Note: The three current carriers enabling a special open enrollment/annual choice to add or change coverage to members of ALL five MTI bargaining units until April 26, 2013. Changes in coverage will be effective July 1, 2013. The deadline for application to change coverage must be received in Human Resources by 5:00 p.m., April 26, 2013. The District has scheduled two health insurance information sessions for those with questions to seek answers from the above-referenced plans.
Health Insurance Information Sessions:
April 8 – La Follette Room C17 – 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. April 9 – Memorial Neighborhood Center – 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Health Insurance

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (63K PDF), via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Since the late 1960’s, MTI members have had the benefit of the best health insurance available. Stressing the importance of quality health insurance in providing economic security, members have made health insurance their #1 priority via their responses to the Union’s Bargaining Survey. And, the Union not only was able to bargain specific benefits, such as acupuncture and extended mental health coverage, as demanded by MTI members, but due to a 1983 MTI victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, MTI was able to have an equal voice in which insurance company would provide the plan. This is important because different insurance companies have different interpretations of the same insurance provisions.
Unfortunately, the District Administration took advantage of the increased leverage in negotiations enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10 forcing concessions in health insurance and other Contract provisions in exchange for them agreeing to extend MTI’s five Collective Bargaining Agreements through June 2013.
Members of MTI’s teacher bargaining unit, who elected WPS health insurance under old Contract terms, will now lose that coverage June 30, 2012. The District is in the process of distributing materials by which members of the teacher bargaining unit can become familiar with the options available for coverage commencing July 1. They are Dean Health Plan, Physicians Plus and Group Health Cooperative. Each offers an HMO and a Point of Service Plan. The latter carries a higher premium, but enables broader choices for services.
The District has scheduled five sessions for those with questions to seek answers from the above-referenced plans.
April 9 – Doyle Auditorium -1:00-3:00 p.m.
April 11- La Follette C17 – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 17 – Memorial Wisconsin Center – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 19 -West LMC – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 23 – East LMC – 4:00-6:00 p.m.

The Madison School District’s support of the costly WPS health insurance option has been quite controversial over the years.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Walker’s claim on health insurance savings for public schools questioned

David Wahlberg:

School districts required to offer health insurance through WEA Trust, a company created by the teachers’ union, would save $68 million a year if employees could switch to the state health plan, Gov. Scott Walker said this week, repeating a claim he made last year.
“That’s one of the many examples of why it’s so critically important to change collective bargaining,” Walker said at a news conference Monday before bringing up the issue again in his public address Tuesday.
Madison-based WEA Trust, created by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, disputes the claim. The insurer says it provides lower-cost choices, and districts can already join the state health plan.
“It’s been an option for them for some time,” said WEA Trust spokesman Steve Lyons.
About 65 percent of the state’s school districts contract with WEA Trust, covering about 35 percent of school employees. Several large districts, including Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee, don’t offer the plan.

The cost of providing WPS coverage to Madison teachers has long been controversial.

Madison schools’ ‘Cadillac’ health insurance a myth

Susan Troller:

There’s always lots of talk about how Madison area teachers enjoy gold-plated health insurance plans, courtesy of the taxpayers. But a recently released report from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards should go a long ways towards dispelling that myth.
Almost 400 school districts showed insurance data for the 2009-2010 school year, and the cost of premiums for Madison school district employees were rock bottom, second only to the tiny Maple school district’s premium costs. (Only about a quarter of the school districts in Wisconsin have yet reported their 2010-2011 figures).
Last year’s premium costs for the Maple School District, located in Douglas County in northern Wisconsin, were $369.26 per month for a single person’s policy; Madison’s costs ran $419.13 for a single policy, with Hortonville in third place at $419.42. Family insurance premiums in Maple were $1107.79 per month while Madison’s were $1119.10; Hortonville was 1220.41.

Cut Costs for Teacher Health Insurance (Or Not)

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial: The district proposed to add two more HMO options for teachers. If a teacher chose any of the three HMO options, the district would pay the full premium. But if a teacher chose the high-cost WPS option, the district would pay only up to the cost of the highest-priced HMO plan. … Continue reading Cut Costs for Teacher Health Insurance (Or Not)

Minnesota’s Proposed Mandatory School Employee Health Insurance Pool

Megan Boldt: A bill that would create a mandatory statewide health insurance pool for Minnesota’s 200,000 school employees is one step closer to reality. After a fiery, eight-hour debate, the House approved the measure on an 81-52 vote Thursday night. Supporters say the pool will put school districts in a better position when negotiating health … Continue reading Minnesota’s Proposed Mandatory School Employee Health Insurance Pool

MMSD, MTI and Health Insurance – A Clarification

There seems to be some confusion about the negotiations between MTI and the school district. The Board WILL be negotiating health insurance with MTI; the Board has NOT taken health insurance off the table. The Voluntary Impasse Agreement (VIA) does NOT eliminate this as a subject of negotiation. The VIA DOES set up a structure … Continue reading MMSD, MTI and Health Insurance – A Clarification

Dane County health insurance costs are lowest in Wisconsin

A new study by the Institute for One Wisconsin found that Dane County had the lowest regional health insurance cost in the state, as did the Madison metropolitan area compared to other metro areas. The analysis by the nonprofit research and education organization, which supports a progressive agenda, found that there was a nearly 30 … Continue reading Dane County health insurance costs are lowest in Wisconsin

Getting out information about MMSD health insurance costs: some progress

At the October 23, 2006 meeting of the Human Resources Committee for the Madison School Board, I reported on why the Board of Education and employee representatives should work together to reduce future health insurance costs. With one exception, my data came directly from the September 25 presentation by Bob Butler, attorney-consultant for the Wisconsin … Continue reading Getting out information about MMSD health insurance costs: some progress

Dane County Saves $1.2M on Employee Health Insurance: Will the Madison School District Follow This Lead?

Recently, the Sun Prairie School district and its teachers’ union successfully bargained with DeanCare to bring down future costs for employee health insurance. This week Dane County and five of its employee unions agreed to save $1.2M in employee health insurance costs for 2007 by moving all covered employees to one provider, Physicians Plus HMO. … Continue reading Dane County Saves $1.2M on Employee Health Insurance: Will the Madison School District Follow This Lead?

Containing MMSD’s employee health insurance costs: what’s next?

In June of 2006, the Madison School Board identified containment of employee health insurance costs as a major goal for its Human Resources Committee for 2006-07. On September 25, the HR committee began to study current health insurance costs, projections of future increases in these costs and the implications of failing to slow the expected … Continue reading Containing MMSD’s employee health insurance costs: what’s next?

9/25/2006 Health Insurance Presentation

On September 25, the Human Resources Committee of the Madison School Board heard a presentation from Robert Butler, a negotiations consultant from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, about the ever-increasing costs for employee health insurance for school districts. Mr. Butler also recommended steps for the district to take in the future. The committee meets … Continue reading 9/25/2006 Health Insurance Presentation

How Can This Continue: Negotating Health Insurance Changes

Robert Butler[PDF]: Health insurance has become the most prevalent issue discussed at the bargaining table today. Recent premium increases for school districts with July renewal dates have focused even more attention on this issue. Many administrators and board members ask: How can this continue? How do we communicate to our employees, our taxpayers and other … Continue reading How Can This Continue: Negotating Health Insurance Changes

Want to know whether the Madison schools get a good health insurance deal for teachers? Forget it.

Most of the $37M that the Madison school district will spend this year for employee health insurance goes to the cost for covering our teachers and their families. That’s about 10% of the total annual budget. I support high quality health insurance for all of our employees. As a school board member, I also have … Continue reading Want to know whether the Madison schools get a good health insurance deal for teachers? Forget it.

By Invitation Only: How the MMSD-MTI Health Insurance Task Force Limited Its Options

In June of 2005, when the majority of the Madison School Board approved the two-year collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union, the agreement included a task force to study and make recommendations on possible changes in health insurance coverage for the teachers, the majority of the district’s employees. Task force members would be the … Continue reading By Invitation Only: How the MMSD-MTI Health Insurance Task Force Limited Its Options

Very disappointing start for MTI-MMSD health insurance task force

On Wednesday, January 11, representatives of Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) and the Madison school district met at the union’s headquarters for three hours. MTI Executive Director John Matthews chaired the meeting. It was the first of two meetings at which MTI and MMSD will supposedly explore the potential for savings on health insurance costs for … Continue reading Very disappointing start for MTI-MMSD health insurance task force

Public Not Welcome at MMSD Talks about Future Health Insurance Costs

Last August, MMSD parent KJ Jakobson asked “whether the new joint district-union task force for investigating health insurance costs be a truly collaborative effort to solve a very costly problem? Or will it instead end up being a collusion to maintain the status quo?” Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task … Continue reading Public Not Welcome at MMSD Talks about Future Health Insurance Costs

Report Proposes Employee Health Insurance Savings through Switch to State Health Care Plan

According to a recent report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the Madison school district could save $2.4M per year by negotiating health insurance coverage for its teachers through the state’s employee health insurance plan, rather than continue with Group Health (HMO) and Wisconsin Physician’s Service plans. The $100 Million Question: Breaking the Health Insurance … Continue reading Report Proposes Employee Health Insurance Savings through Switch to State Health Care Plan

Board of Education in No Rush to Explore Health Insurance Savings

Last June, the Madison Board of Education ratified the 2005-07 collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc. The agreement commits the district and the teachers union to form a task force to identify potential cost savings from changes in health insurance coverage. If the task force finds savings, the parties may renegotiate the health care … Continue reading Board of Education in No Rush to Explore Health Insurance Savings

Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?

In a recent letter to the editor of Isthmus, KJ Jakobson asks “whether the new joint district-union task force for investigating health insurance costs be a truly collaborative effort to solve a very costly problem? Or will it instead end up being a collusion to maintain the status quo?” Here is the full text of … Continue reading Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?

Teacher Health Insurance Costs: Why They Matter

Madison Teachers, Inc., the Madison teachers’ union, has recently ratified its collective bargaining agreement with the Madison school district for 2005-06 and 2006-07. Later this month, the Board of Education will have its chance to ratify the agreement, although the board gave preliminary assent on June 6. On June 10, Isthmus writer Jason Shepard provided … Continue reading Teacher Health Insurance Costs: Why They Matter

Saving Money, Healthcare Insurance and the West Bend School District

John Torinus:

One small governmental entity has shown the way. The West Bend School District went self-insured years ago, then bid out its network needs, then went CDHP and now is putting in its own on-site clinic. It’s in the vanguard in learning from the private sector payers about what works and being a fast-follower.
Result? It is delivering first class health care for less than $10,000 per employee. That’s half of what many districts are playing for fully insured plans.
Think about the numbers. At a savings of $10,000 per employee and about 1000 employees, it is saving the taxpayers $10 million per year.
The district is giving raises; it has found funds for deferred maintenance; it found $5 million in reserves to put against a $25 million bond program for school construction.

Smart, anti-orthodoxy thinking.

Madison School Board leans toward deductibles instead of switching health insurers

Logan Wroge: Increasing the amount staff pay for premiums would see teachers paying 6% of a HMO family plan — up from 3% — to about $44 more a month. Certain hourly employees, such as special education assistants, would pay 2.5% of an HMO family plan instead of 1.25%, or $8.53 more per month. Scott … Continue reading Madison School Board leans toward deductibles instead of switching health insurers

Commentary on the Madison School District’s healthcare costs

Logan Wroge: According to MTI’s memo, health insurance changes under consideration include: Moving future retirees from health insurance plans offered through the district to the state Department of Employee Trust Funds’ Local Annuitant Health Program, a relatively new program for retired public employees. Increasing employee premium contributions for teachers and other employees from 3% to … Continue reading Commentary on the Madison School District’s healthcare costs

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Cost to Families for Health Coverage and Care Has Risen More Than 2X Faster Than Wages and 3X Faster Than Inflation Over the Last Decade

Kaiser Family Foundation: A new KFF analysis that looked at both premiums and other out-of-pocket costs shows that families with coverage through a large employer paid 67 percent more for their health benefits and care in 2018 than a decade earlier. In 2018, a typical family of four with large employer coverage spent $4,706 on … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Cost to Families for Health Coverage and Care Has Risen More Than 2X Faster Than Wages and 3X Faster Than Inflation Over the Last Decade

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Finnish Government Collapses Due to Rising Cost of Universal Health Care

Dominic Chopping: As an increasing number of people live longer in retirement, the cost of providing pension and healthcare benefits can rise. Those increased costs are paid for by taxes collected from of the working-age population – who make up a smaller percentage of the population than in decades past. In 2018, those aged 65 … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Finnish Government Collapses Due to Rising Cost of Universal Health Care

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Link between health spending and life expectancy: US is an outlier

Max Roser: The graph below shows the relationship between what a country spends on health per person and life expectancy in that country between 1970 and 2015 for a number of rich countries. The US stands out as an outlier: it spends far more on health than any other country, yet the life expectancy of … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Link between health spending and life expectancy: US is an outlier

Teachers are striking over pay as pensions and health-care costs are eating up budgets

The Economist: “I LIKE CATS, unicorns and peace, but I love my teacher!” declares one sign, with two rainbows, held by a young pupil at Crocker Highlands Elementary School in Oakland on a weekday morning. She should have been at school, but instead she joined her mother and thousands of Oakland’s teachers outside City Hall. … Continue reading Teachers are striking over pay as pensions and health-care costs are eating up budgets

What We Learned From a Year of Americans ‘Risking It’ Without Insurance

John Tozzi: For many Americans, 2018 was the year that health care reached a breaking point. Insurance was still too expensive to buy. It didn’t cover nearly enough. And as the country’s politics festered, the government once again failed to solve the insurance conundrum, even as a large majority of Americans who flocked to voting … Continue reading What We Learned From a Year of Americans ‘Risking It’ Without Insurance

Mental health programs help Madison-area schools address behavior causes

<a href=”https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/health-med-fit/mental-health-programs-help-madison-area-schools-address-behavior-causes/article_4a55309a-fc7a-5132-b84b-84ee3daedb44.html”>David Wahlberg</a>:<blockquote> Catholic Charities of Madison operates both programs, and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin also started to help run Behavioral Health in Schools this year.  While Building Bridges doesn’t provide therapy in schools, the 90-day program helps families secure proper food and housing, navigate insurance plans, get transportation to therapy appointments and advocate for … Continue reading Mental health programs help Madison-area schools address behavior causes

Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates

Marshall Allen: With little public scrutiny, the health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans, including, odds are, many readers of this story. The companies are tracking your race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth. They’re collecting what you post on … Continue reading Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates

Milwaukee schools braces for bruising budget battle; busing services, health care benefits could be pared

Annys Johnson: The school board’s Committee on Accountability, Finance and Personnel will take up two other cost-saving proposals on Tuesday, including one to restructure employee health care benefits. According to the administration’s analysis, that proposal would save up to $17.4 million by: Eliminating coverage of spouses who have access to insurance elsewhere or charge employees … Continue reading Milwaukee schools braces for bruising budget battle; busing services, health care benefits could be pared

K-12 Tax & Spending climate: Opaque and sky high bills are breaking Americans — and our health care system.

Sarah Kliff: On September 28, 2016, a 3-year-old girl named Elodie Fowler slid into an MRI machine at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California. Doctors wanted to better understand a rare genetic condition that was causing swelling along the right side of her body and problems processing regular food. The scan took about … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending climate: Opaque and sky high bills are breaking Americans — and our health care system.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Overlooked By ACA: Many People Paying Full Price For Insurance ‘Getting Slammed’

Julie Rovner:: Paul Melquist of St. Paul, Minn., has a message for the people who wrote the Affordable Care Act: “Quit wrecking my health care.” Teri Goodrich, of Raleigh, N.C., has the same complaint. “We’re getting slammed. We didn’t budget for this,” she said. Millions of people have gained health insurance because of the federal … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Overlooked By ACA: Many People Paying Full Price For Insurance ‘Getting Slammed’

Universal health care cost in California $400 billion a year

Angela Hart: The price tag is in: It would cost $400 billion to remake California’s health insurance marketplace and create a publicly funded universal heath care system, according to a state financial analysis released Monday.  California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called “single-payer” … Continue reading Universal health care cost in California $400 billion a year

Madison School District Healthcare Cost Summary

Tap for a larger version. March, 2017 School Board Presentation (PDF). Notes and links: health insurance. 2015: Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the Madison School District budget MMSD will spend $61 million on health insurance this year. One of Every Six Dollars is Spent on Health Insurance in the MMSD budget. Health Insurance … Continue reading Madison School District Healthcare Cost Summary

Laziness isn’t why people are poor. And iPhones aren’t why they lack health care.

Stephen Pimpare: Third — and conveniently, perhaps, for people like Chaffetz or House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — this stubborn insistence that people could have more money or more health care if only they wanted them more absolves government of having to intervene and use its power on their behalf. In this way of … Continue reading Laziness isn’t why people are poor. And iPhones aren’t why they lack health care.

Madison School District’s Healthcare costs (!) & 2017-2018 Budget

Tap for a larger version. Madison School District Administration Slides (PDF): Compensation: Prior Years Strategy – Funded step advancement, lane movement, & base wage increase (varies), offset by multiple reductions in personnel / non-personnel areas For 2017-18: – With referendum resources, provide for step advancement, lane movement, and base wage increase (TBD), without multiple offsetting … Continue reading Madison School District’s Healthcare costs (!) & 2017-2018 Budget

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: On Substantial Healthcare Cost Increases

David Barnes: ObamaCare won’t work without young Americans like me, and the Obama administration knows it. That’s why the president is holding a Millennial Outreach and Engagement Summit focused on the Affordable Care Act at the White House on Tuesday. But no matter what the president says, many young Americans simply aren’t buying what he’s … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: On Substantial Healthcare Cost Increases

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: $10,345 per person: U.S. health care spending reaches new peak

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar: Growth is projected to average 5.8 percent from 2015 to 2025, below the pace before the 2007-2009 economic recession but faster than in recent years that saw health care spending moving in step with modest economic growth. National health expenditures will hit $3.35 trillion this year, which works out to $10,345 for every … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: $10,345 per person: U.S. health care spending reaches new peak

The Madison School Districts Maintenance And Healthcare Spending Priorities

James Wigderson: Despite the administration’s plan to make sure no employee experienced a net loss in pay in the coming year, Loumos wanted the district to cover the cost of the employee contributions for the first year so every employee could have the full amount of their raises. “What would it be if we held, … Continue reading The Madison School Districts Maintenance And Healthcare Spending Priorities

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Conclusion: How did we get here and why is this so hard to fix? – True Cost of Health Care

David Belk: Without increased transparency and protection from over-billing, no reform will effectively reduce our healthcare costs or even slow the rate in which they’re increasing. Increased transparency in health care costs would make it very difficult for health care providers and insurance companies to continue operating the way in which they do now. Most … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Conclusion: How did we get here and why is this so hard to fix? – True Cost of Health Care

Candidate Clinton Calls For Mandated Autism Insurance (Obamacare Exchange Vendors Are Exempt!)

Alex Leary: The Senate plan, championed by Democrat Steve Geller, mandated insurers cover autism. But insurers in the state’s exchange under Obamacare are exempt. Clinton’s campaign said more than 30 states require the coverage under exchanges. “Clinton’s plan calls on Florida to make this coverage a requirement for all plans offered in their state-run health … Continue reading Candidate Clinton Calls For Mandated Autism Insurance (Obamacare Exchange Vendors Are Exempt!)

UC Berkeley Drops Health Coverage for Student Families

Susan Cohen: Finnegan’s blood glucose monitor arrived last month, and it should make a big difference in his life. The eight-year-old has diabetes, and now, instead of having his finger pricked eight times a day, his parents will be able to track his blood sugar levels painlessly. Finnegan’s mother, Kayleigh Cassella, and stepfather, Arran Phipps, … Continue reading UC Berkeley Drops Health Coverage for Student Families

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New York City taxpayers are headed for a collision with the ACA’s Cadillac Tax on high-cost health plans.

Yevgeny Feyman, via a kind reader: Last year, as part of a contract deal with the teachers’ union, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he and the city’s unions had agreed to cut $3.4 billion in worker health-care costs over four years. Even with these “savings,” though, Gotham’s health-insurance spending is projected to grow 6 … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New York City taxpayers are headed for a collision with the ACA’s Cadillac Tax on high-cost health plans.

Healthcare Costs & The Madison Schools

David Wahlberg: Madison Teachers Inc. and five other Madison-based unions are so concerned about significant financial losses at Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, they’re urging members to vote for particular candidates in Group Health’s board election Thursday. “MTI cannot stand idly by and watch GHC disappear,” John Matthews, the teacher union’s executive director, … Continue reading Healthcare Costs & The Madison Schools

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: More Cost of Health Care Shifts to Consumers

Stephanie Armour: Americans increasingly have to dig into their own pockets to pay for medical care, a shift that is helping to curb the growth in health spending by employers and the government. The trend is being accelerated by the Affordable Care Act because many private plans sold by the law’s health exchanges come with … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: More Cost of Health Care Shifts to Consumers

K-12 Tax & Spending: State Health Care Spending on Medicaid

Pew Charitable Trusts: Medicaid is the largest health insurance program in the United States, covering both acute and long-term care services for over 66 million low-income Americans—children and their parents, as well as elderly and disabled individuals.1 This report focuses on the impact of Medicaid on the states, including trends in spending and enrollment, and … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending: State Health Care Spending on Medicaid

How Colleges Waste Your Health Fees

Jenna Ashley Robinson: Across the country, student health centers are showing signs of financial bloat and costly mission creep. Funded by both hefty campus health fees and payments from students’ insurers, university health centers spend their extra cash on boutique services and progressive programs. In universities’ early days, the campus infirmary was simple. As a … Continue reading How Colleges Waste Your Health Fees

Health Law Pinches Colleges: Reducing Adjunct Teaching

Mark Peters & Douglas Belkin:

The federal health-care overhaul is prompting some colleges and universities to cut the hours of adjunct professors, renewing a debate about the pay and benefits of these freelance instructors who handle a significant share of teaching at U.S. higher-education institutions.
The Affordable Care Act requires large employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more starting in 2014, or face a penalty. The mandate is a particular challenge for colleges and universities, which increasingly rely on adjuncts to help keep costs down as states have scaled back funding for higher education.
A handful of schools, including Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania and Youngstown State University in Ohio, have curbed the number of classes that adjuncts can teach in the current spring semester to limit the schools’ exposure to the health-insurance requirement. Others are assessing whether to do so, or to begin offering health care to some adjuncts.

Report says UW System overpaid health premiums, pensions by nearly $33M

Associated Press:

The University of Wisconsin System overpaid for health insurance premiums and pension contributions by nearly $33 million over the last two years, including $8 million for more than 900 employees who had already left their jobs, according to a report released Thursday.
The Legislative Audit Bureau’s findings prompted state lawmakers to call for a deeper review of UW System’s payroll and benefit protocols.
“This is a $32 million error,” said Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, co-chairwoman of the Legislture’s audit committee. “My initial response was I’m shocked. I’m really disappointed.”

Health care law brings double dose of trouble for CCAC part-time profs

Mary Niederberger:

To Community College of Allegheny County’s president, Alex Johnson, cutting hours for some 400 temporary part-time workers to avoid providing health insurance coverage for them under the impending Affordable Health Care Act is purely a cost-saving measure at a time the college faces a funding reduction.
But to some of the employees affected, including 200 adjunct faculty members, the decision smacks of an attempt to circumvent the national health care legislation that goes into effect in January 2014.
“It’s kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said Adam Davis, an adjunct professor who has taught biology at CCAC since 2005.

Wisconsin Teachers & Healthcare Plans

Erica Breunlin:

The Greendale School District’s high-deductible plan has been in place for the past four years but was not available to teachers until last year. When the district first offered the plan, nonunion employees agreed to try it out but teachers declined, Green said. Once Act 10 came into effect, the district offered the high-deductible plan to teachers again. The district allowed teachers to choose between the high-deductible plan and the traditional plan this school year, and 70% decided to go the high-deductible route after seeing how it was working for other staff members, Green said.
The district runs the plan in conjunction with a health reimbursement account.
In addition to a wellness plan, the Greendale district provides an on-site nurse practitioner from Aurora Health Care.
Green said the high-deductible plan significantly reduces the price of health insurance plans for school districts. When factoring in the cost of the high-deductible plan each year plus what the district is putting into the health reimbursement account, the total is about $1,000 less per family plan per year than the traditional plan.

Related: The Madison School District recently ended their longtime support of a costly WPS healthcare plan.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Health care spending in Wisconsin 6% above average

Guy Boulton:

Health care spending in Wisconsin averaged $7,233 for each person – or almost $29,000 for a family of four – in 2009, according to a report released last week.
The amount was 6% higher than the national average of $6,815.
Wisconsin, which spent an estimated $40.9 billion on health care in 2009, ranked 35th in the country in per-capita spending, according to the report by researchers at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Thirty-four states spent less.
The study shows the wide variation in health care spending from state to state. The variation stems largely from demographics, such as the average age of the population, and the percent of the population with health insurance.
States with higher incomes and higher cost of living also tended to spend more on health care.
Utah, with a young population and healthy lifestyle, spent an average of $5,031 per person on health care, or 26% less than the national average. In contrast, Massachusetts, with higher incomes and nearly universal insurance coverage, spent an average of $9,278, or 36% more than the national average.

Teacher Union Controlled Health Care Provider WEA Trust: Have to Adapt – and Fast

Karen Rivedal:

Less than two months after a new state law took health benefits off the bargaining table for public workers and required them to pay at least 12.6 percent — up from zero, in some school districts — of their health insurance premiums, WEA Trust has lost a fifth of its business.
And that means big changes could be coming for the Madison-based group health insurer of mostly school districts that employs nearly 500.
“We’re going to have to adapt and adjust,” said Mark Moody, president and CEO of WEA Trust. “You can’t absorb a 20 percent loss and not do anything.”
The Trust, a not-for-profit company, provides health insurance to just over 100,000 employees in about 60 percent of the state’s 425 school districts.
It was created in 1970 by the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC.
Critics have long accused the two bodies of working together to fleece taxpayers through over-priced contracts they say school boards have effectively been forced to sign under union pressure.

A Look at Sun Prairie’s Health Care Costs

sp-eye

In our last post, we made some estimates on potential savings in the 2011-12 budget due to over-budgeting for health insurance premiums in the wake of Governor Walker’s budget.
Our calculations were based on the following:
The cost to the district for a Family plan was estimated to be: $14,249
The cost to the district for a Single plan was estimated to be: $ 6,307

Sun Prairie’s website.

Kaukauna Area School District projects $1.5 million surplus after contract changes to health care, retirement savings; Milwaukee Plans to Lay Off 354 Teachers

Appleton Post-Crescent:

As changes to collective bargaining powers for public workers take effect today, the Kaukauna Area School District is poised to swing from a projected $400,000 budget shortfall next year to a $1.5 million surplus due to health care and retirement savings.
The Kaukauna School Board approved changes Monday to its employee handbook that require staff to cover 12.6 percent of their health insurance and to contribute 5.8 percent of their wages to the state’s pension system, in accordance with the new collective bargaining law, commonly known as Act 10.
“These impacts will allow the district to hire additional teachers (and) reduce projected class sizes,” School Board President Todd Arnoldussen wrote in a statement Monday. “In addition, time will be available for staff to identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group experiences.”

Karen Herzog

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton announced at a news conference this afternoon that 519 layoff notices would be issued for next school year, including 354 teachers.
Most of the teacher cuts come at the elementary level. The district has about 125 elementary schools. The elementary schools most affected are those that lost funding for a program that reduces class sizes.
The layoffs are the result of a number of budgetary factors, including the loss of $84 million in state aid to MPS for the next fiscal year, Thornton said.
Thornton called on the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association to reconsider the district’s request that teachers pay 5.8% of their salaries toward their pensions, which would have reduced the number of layoffs by about 200 teachers.

More on Kaukana, here.

Mothers of twins do not just get twice the bundle of joy – they are also healthier than other mothers

The Economist:

THROUGHOUT history, twins have provoked mixed feelings. Sometimes they were seen as a curse–an unwanted burden on a family’s resources. Sometimes they were viewed as a blessing, or even as a sign of their father’s superior virility. But if Shannen Robson and Ken Smith, of the University of Utah, are right, twins have more to do with their mother’s sturdy constitution than their father’s sexual power.
At first blush, this sounds an odd idea. After all, bearing and raising twins is taxing, both for the mother and for the children. Any gains from having more than one offspring at a time might be expected to be outweighed by costs like higher infant and maternal mortality rates. On this view, twins are probably an accidental by-product of a natural insurance policy against the risk of losing an embryo early in gestation. That would explain why many more twins are conceived than born, and why those born are so rare (though more common these days, with the rise of IVF). They account for between six and 40 live births per 1,000, depending on where the mother lives.
Dr Robson and Dr Smith, however, think that this account has got things the wrong way round. Although all women face a trade-off between the resources their bodies allocate to reproduction and those reserved for the maintenance of health, robust women can afford more of both than frail ones. And what surer way to signal robustness than by bearing more than one child at a time? In other words, the two researchers conjectured, the mothers of twins will not only display greater overall reproductive success, they will also be healthier than those who give birth only to singletons.

After Hartland teachers agree, union blocks insurance switch

Mike Johnson

Teachers in the Hartland-Lakeside School District have agreed to switch health insurance providers to save the district $690,000, but the executive committee of a union that represents Arrowhead High feeder schools is blocking the change, officials say.
Faced with a $1.2 million reduction in state aid for the 2011-12 school year, the School Board has been looking at ways to reduce costs and avoid program cuts and increases in class sizes, Superintendent Glenn W. Schilling said Tuesday.
The board determined it could achieve some saving by switching teachers’ health insurance from WEA Trust, the nonprofit company started 40 years ago by the state’s largest teachers union, to another provider when the contract expires on June 30.
In the end, the board and teachers – after a series of joint meetings to study the issue – agreed to go with United Healthcare.

Wisconsin School districts’ health plans cost more than businesses’ plans

Rick Rommell:

School districts in southeastern Wisconsin pay significantly more for health insurance than do private businesses – as much as 76% more – and their employees bear much less of the overall cost, an analysis released Wednesday shows.
The relatively small contribution teachers in general make to their insurance coverage drew considerable attention during the superheated debate over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill and his bid to sharply limit collective bargaining by most government employees.
Less discussed has been the cost of the insurance plans, which significantly outweigh those offered by private-sector employers, according to an analysis by HCTrends, which describes itself as “a market-oriented forum” on health care issues.
For single coverage, southeastern Wisconsin school districts paid 76% more than private businesses in 2009-’10, according to HCTrends.

MacIver Institute:

School districts in southeastern Wisconsin are paying twice as much for health insurance as private sector companies in Milwaukee, according to a new study by HCTrends. That’s just the beginning of what the group found in its study of school district health insurance expenses in 2010.
“Health plan costs for the region’s teachers are 63 percent higher, on average, than the plans offered at private-sector companies with some union representation, and 80 percent higher than the average single-coverage cost for all private-sector plans,” according to the study.
“This combination of above-average plan costs and below-average employee contributions significantly increases the school district’s health care costs. While the average teachers’ plan costs 80 percent more than the average private-sector plan, the per-employee cost borne by the school district is twice as much as the cost borne by the average employer.”

More Wisconsin districts now could drop insurance arm of teachers union

Amy Hetzner:

In freeing school boards from bargaining with employees over anything but inflation-capped wage increases, Wisconsin lawmakers might have opened the floodgates for districts seeking to drop coverage by the state’s dominant – and highly controversial – health insurance provider for teachers.
WEA Trust, the nonprofit company started 40 years ago by the state’s largest teachers union, currently insures employees in about two-thirds of Wisconsin school districts. The company’s market dominance has dropped in recent years, although not as much as some school officials who complain about the company’s costs would like.
After switching the district’s nonunion employees to a different health insurance carrier, Cedarburg School Board President Kevin Kennedy said his school system is likely to look at cost savings by doing the same for its unionized teachers after unsuccessful attempts in previous years.
“It’s such a large-ticket item; it’s such low-hanging fruit,” he said. “You can lay off an aide or increase your student fees, but that doesn’t make up such a magnitude of saving as insurance does.”

Health care tops contract debates School districts focus negotiations on cost of retirees’ benefits

Amy Hetzner:

After years of watching escalating health insurance costs eat up and even surpass the savings provided by early retirements, some public school districts are getting tough in contract negotiations to reduce benefit levels.
The Hartland-Lakeside School Board and its teachers union went to arbitration in mid-December as district officials sought to cap insurance benefits and lower a stipend given to retiring teachers.
The Waukesha School Board has gone even further, denying almost all early retirement requests by teachers for the past two years as it advances toward arbitration in contract negotiations.

Health care cost growth has also been an issue locally.

New Program Provides Basic Health Care For Madison School District Students

channel3000:

The year-round program covers annual physical exams, primary care office visits at the assigned clinic, including visits when the child is sick, as well as some prescription medicines.
“It’s a new program so I think I signed up 12 families probably in a couple weeks time at the end of school last year,” she said.
The program starts with the school nurse in every school in the district. The nurse identifies students based on two main criteria: they don’t have any health insurance and do not qualify for any state programs like Badger Care.
The nurse then forwards an application for the program to the health care provider that has been paired up with the school. The health care provider then contacts the student’s parents.
The program is available to undocumented students. MMSD Superintendent Dan Nerad defends this decision by citing the U.S. Supreme Court case that requires schools to educate all children regardless of immigration status.
“These are children that have needs and we have an obligation to educate them both legally and ethically and morally but underscoring it’s a legal obligation first and foremost for us,” he said. “And when kids aren’t well they need to be taken care of.”

Milwaukee Mayor Advocates teacher Healthcare Cost Reform

Alan Borsuk:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is calling on Milwaukee Public Schools and union leaders to work quickly on ways to get more MPS employees to take less expensive health insurance.
In an interview, Barrett said, “I’m calling on the school district, on the School Board, on the representatives of the employees, to meet as quickly as possible to see if they can find a solution to stave off” what lies ahead for MPS, including projections of cuts in hundreds of teaching jobs and increases in average class size.
“I believe a big component of that is putting more people into the lower cost health care plan,” he said. MPS offers two health plans, and about 80% of employees take one that costs $7,380 a year more for a family than the other plan.

Teacher Unions Trade High Health Care Costs for Members: “Simple Change Could Ease Milwaukee Public Schools’ Budget Crunch”

Alan Borsuk:

But changing benefits is, of course, a matter for labor negotiations, and the unions, particularly the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, don’t want to change what they have.
Union’s response
Mike Langyel, president of the MTEA, said in a lengthy telephone conversation that the union just does not accept that there would be any savings by shifting more, if not all, employees to the lower cost plan. He called the notion that money could be saved this way “a fantasy” and accused Bonds and Superintendent William Andrekopoulos of engaging in “a theatrical production” aimed at making teachers scapegoats for MPS’ problems.
He said teachers earned their health insurance by accepting lower wage increases, going back more than 20 years, and members feel strongly about the Aetna plan. Langyel also questioned the honesty of the administration’s cost figures, although he did not give any specific instance that he believed was wrong.
“This is a calculated attempt by this administration to provide false choices,” Langyel said. “This will not solve the funding problems of this district one bit. . . .  The needs of this district are not going to be met on the backs of those people who are already sacrificing to be Milwaukee teachers.”
Langyel said that if all MPS employees were on the HMO plan, that would drive up the costs of that plan to a point that might eliminate the claimed savings. MPS administrators agree that the actual results of such a switch are not known and most likely would be less than the simple calculation that yielded the $47 million figure. Many older employees with higher health care costs are now on the Aetna plan, for one thing. But they do not agree there would be no savings.

This strategy is not unique to Milwaukee.

Wauwatosa teachers get raises; district gets health care concession

Amy Hetzner:

The Wauwatosa School Board has ratified a contract that will give steep pay raises to the district’s most experienced teachers while also winning an important concession for the district with a change in retiree health insurance benefits.
The agreement, approved by the board on Monday and by the Wauwatosa Education Association on Friday, increases teachers’ salaries and benefits by 4.76% this school year and by 4.25% in the following year. The top pay for the most experienced teachers will increase by more than 8% to $74,030. Teachers with doctorate degrees can receive annual stipends of $1,415.
With the agreement, district officials were able to accomplish a goal by getting teacher approval to change health insurance benefits for future retirees. While teachers now receive health insurance after they retire based on the number of years they have worked for the district, teachers hired after July 2010 will be awarded stipends tied to their final salaries with which they can pay for their health insurance, said Daniel Chanen, Wauwatosa’s director of human resources.

Milwaukee schools face booming retiree health care costs

Erin Richards:

The Milwaukee School Board has spent 20 years ignoring a “fiscal time bomb” in the form of generous and unfunded health insurance benefits for retired MPS teachers and staff that will cost the district $5 billion by 2016, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
On Monday, the president of the conservative institute that conducted the report, George Lightbourn, said the study raises serious questions about the School Board’s ability to provide financial oversight of the district and that it lends support to changing the governance structure of MPS.
The report comes in the same week that the Legislature is expected to convene a special session to consider a bill that would give the Milwaukee mayor power to appoint a superintendent and authority over the district’s budget.
“Even if the mayor took over (the school system), the mayor would have to deal with this thing,” Lightbourn said. “But it’s more likely that somebody who has a different approach to this might actually look at this and if nothing else say: ‘We have to slow down these costs.’ ”

NEA Internal Survey on Health Care Reveals “Huge Divide Between NEA Executives and Presidents and Rank and File

Mike Antonucci:

The National Education Association has appeared front and center in the debate over reform of the health care and insurance system, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and media buys. But a 2008 internal survey of NEA members and officers on health care issues indicates varying levels of enthusiasm for proposed reforms.
Though the survey itself was not made available to EIA, the union’s collective bargaining and member advocacy department has been briefing union activists on its findings throughout 2009. I have posted a link to the relevant information on EIA’s Declassified page. The report included statistics such as the average health insurance premium paid in 2007 by NEA members was $603 for employee-only coverage – about 12.6% of the total cost. Eight affiliates reported members paid nothing.
NEA commissioned the polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner to learn member and officer attitudes about health care reform. Most of those surveyed were concerned about the system, but satisfied with their own health care. NEA members were also more favorably disposed towards government health care programs than the average American.
Still, the survey found that NEA members were “split on whether government or employers should provide health care” and that a “Massachusetts-style proposal [is] susceptible to arguments against it.”

School districts struggle to pay retirees’ health benefits

Bob Kelleher:

Some Minnesota school districts may have to go into debt to pay for the rising cost of health care for their retired employees.
Local Minnesota governments have until October to sell bonds — without a public referendum — to help pay for retired employees’ health care. But with the economy in the tank, some people are unhappy about paying higher property taxes to fund someone else’s health benefits.
The retirees’ health policy costs fall under something accountants call OPEB — Other than Pension Employee Benefits. OPEB obligations, especially for health care, are really starting to put the squeeze on school districts statewide.
“We’re actually paying for a larger number of retirees, from a pot that is generated by a smaller number of students,” said Robert Belluzzo, superintendent of the Hibbing school district.
In that district, $1 of every $5 of its budget goes to retiree benefits, primarily for health care. Meanwhile, Belluzzo says the retiree pool keeps growing.
“The number of retiree health insurance plans is more than the number of active insurance plans that we have,” said Belluzzo.

“Good News isn’t News”: Addressing Health Care Costs

FoxPolitics via a Steve Loehrke email:

Fremont School District Board of Education and FoxPolitics reader, wrote to update me with positive (!!) financial news from a school district. Refreshing!
In early March, 2007, the Post-Crescent, striving to illustrate the Freedom of Information Act for readers, requested invoices for legal charges from Weyauwega Fremont (W-F), a 1000-student school district west of Appleton. Per one of the newspaper’s articles at the time:

Using the state’s Open Records law, the newspaper fought for 10 months to see detailed invoices for attorney services after the district released heavily redacted copies ….

(P-C, March 11, 2007. The articles are no longer linkable. You can pay the P-C for an archived copy, or access articles from 1999 and later, free with your library card via Newsbank on the Appleton Public Library website.)
Loehrke objected to carte blanche (unredacted) release of the information and the P/C suit ended up costing district taxpayers about $25,000.
Quoting again from the March 11, 2007 P/C article:

District officials maintain they have not broken the law nor spent money irresponsibly, that the media is hyping the issue, and a handful of antagonistic residents are digging for dirt where none exists.
“We have willingly and openly responded promptly to more than 30 open records requests in the last year,” school board president Steve Loehrke wrote in an e-mail to The P-C this past week.

Much of the legal work paid for by W-F and questioned by the P-C, was in response to actions by district retirees unhappy with health insurance changes the board and administration were considering – changes which ultimately led to substantial savings for the District.
Loehrke is proud of his school district and concerned that good news isn’t reported.

To update you, our school district changed to a self-funded insurance plan and got rid of the WEAC owned insurance carrier. This year the school district put $800,000 (8%) of our budget into the Fund Balance. Tax rate is lowest of all surrounding school districts. Test scores are up. Permanently fixed the OPEB [Other Post-Employment Benefits] problem. Balanced the next year’s budget. Many things the newspaper could have and should have reported. Instead they wanted a whipping boy to help them sell papers. They never showed up at this year’s annual meeting. News silence. Good news isn’t news.

I talked with W-F District Administrator Jim Harlan to confirm Loehrke’s claims, and if accurate, to get the low-down on how the district achieved all this good stuff.
It seems to me the primary story is one of doggedly doing everything they can to reduce costs – to reduce costs that don’t impact learning in the classroom. Lo and behold, one way W-F reduced costs was by controlling – surprise, surprise – health insurance costs.

A Health Care Cost Win for the Madison School District & A Pay Raise for Madison Teacher’s Clerical Unit

Sandy Cullen:

Nearly 200 employees of the Madison School District who currently have health insurance provided by Wisconsin Physicians Service will lose that option, saving the district at least $1.6 million next year.
But the real savings in eliminating what has long been the most expensive health insurance option for district employees will come in “cost avoidance” in the future, said Bob Nadler, director of human resources for the district.
“It’s a big deal for us – it really is,” Nadler said.
“It certainly will be a benefit to both our employees and the taxpayers,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater, adding that the savings were applied to salary increases for the employees affected.
The change, which will take effect Aug. 1, is the result of an arbitrator’s ruling that allows the district to eliminate WPS coverage as an option for members of the clerical unit of Madison Teachers Inc., and instead offer a choice of coverage by Group Health Cooperative, Dean Care or Physicians Plus at no cost to employees. Those employees previously had a choice between only WPS or GHC.
Currently, the district pays $1,878.44 a month for each employee who chooses WPS family coverage and $716.25 for single coverage.
For Dean Care, the next highest in cost, the district will pay $1,257.68 per employee a month for family coverage and $478.21 for single coverage.
This year, WPS raised its costs more than 11 percent while other providers raised their costs by 5 percent to 9 percent, Nadler said.

Related:

The tradeoff between WPS’s large annual cost increases, salaries and staff layoffs will certainly be a much discussed topic in the next round of local teacher union negotiations.

Finding Health Coverage for Young Adults

James Granelli:

For the last few years, underwriters have been targeting young invincibles with more health plans. Some plans have been criticized for benefit caps of $10,000 or less and for not including prescription, dental or vision coverage. But with the general insurance market becoming saturated, young adults may be seeing more and better plans coming.
“It’s the last untapped, financially viable market,” said analyst William Georges at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Still, insurers don’t necessarily make coverage easy to obtain. Here are a few things to consider:

  • An individual plan is tougher to get than an employer’s group plan because carriers underwrite each policy and exclude people who pose too much of a risk. But the individual plan is cheaper because group plans have to accept everyone, increasing the risks for insurers.
  • Many college alumni associations also offer health insurance, usually through two insurance brokers, American Insurance Administrators Inc. and Marsh Affinity Group Services. Marsh offers graduates of about 30 universities in California only a key group feature on their individual plans — guaranteed acceptance if they apply within 90 days of graduation

Family Wins Suit for Autistic Son’s Health Care

NPR (Larry Abramson): Two years ago, Jacob Micheletti was diagnosed with autism. His parents say Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has transformed their son from a boy who was retreating into darkness into a precocious, gregarious kid. Jake’s father, Joe Micheletti, who works for the state of New Jersey, assumed the family’s insurance company would cover … Continue reading Family Wins Suit for Autistic Son’s Health Care

Waukesha Schools’ Health Care Savings

Amy Hetzner: As it continues to negotiate contracts with eight employee groups, the School Board has approved health insurance changes and modest salary increases that are expected to reduce overall compensation costs for non-unionized employees this school year. Other employees will hopefully take note, School Board President William Baumgart said. “This was a small group … Continue reading Waukesha Schools’ Health Care Savings

Insurance coverage teachers’ top priority

John Matthews: The union is obligated to represent its members interests. The union surveyed its members prior to entering bargaining and the members spoke loudly and clearly: Retain our health insurance options. MTI members value Wisconsin Physicians Service because it enables freedom of choice in medical providers. And MTI members value the services of Group … Continue reading Insurance coverage teachers’ top priority

MMSD / MTI Contract Negotiations Begin: Health Care Changes Proposed

Susan Troller: The district and Madison Teachers Inc. exchanged initial proposals Wednesday to begin negotiations on a new two-year contract that will run through June 30, 2009. The current one expires June 30. “Frankly, I was shocked and appalled by the school district’s initial proposal because it was replete with take-backs in teachers’ rights as … Continue reading MMSD / MTI Contract Negotiations Begin: Health Care Changes Proposed

Madison School Board HR Committee: Health Care Costs Discussion

Ruth Robarts, Chair of the Madison School Board’s HR Committee held a meeting last night to discuss health care costs. Watch the proceedings, or listen [mp3 audio] Robert Butler’s article is well worth reading “How Can This Continue: Negotating Health Insurance Changes“ Parent KJ Jakobson’s remarks, notes and links related to health care costs followed … Continue reading Madison School Board HR Committee: Health Care Costs Discussion

First item on Human Resources Agenda for MMSD: Negotiating health care costs with employees

In August the Human Resources Committee of the Madison School Board—Lawrie Kobza, Shwaw Vang and I–voted unanimously to adopt committee goals for 2006-07 previously presented in this blog. Human Resources Committee of Madison Board To Set Agenda Accordingly, Bob Butler, a collective bargaining consultant from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, will discuss why and … Continue reading First item on Human Resources Agenda for MMSD: Negotiating health care costs with employees

Sun Prairie Cuts Health Care Costs & Raises Teacher Salaries – using the same Dean Healthcare Plan

Milwaukee reporter Amy Hetzner: A change in health insurance carriers was achieved by several Dane County school districts because of unique circumstances, said Annette Mikula, human resources director for the Sun Prairie School District. Dean Health System already had been Sun Prairie’s point-of-service provider in a plan brokered by WEA Trust, she said. So, after … Continue reading Sun Prairie Cuts Health Care Costs & Raises Teacher Salaries – using the same Dean Healthcare Plan

Racine Health Care Costs & Teacher Layoffs

Scott Niederjohn [PDF]: Facing a budget shortfall of $7.2 million this year, the Kenosha school district asked each of their labor groups to switch their health insurance provider from the WEA Trust to Minneapolis-based United Healthcare. The coverage offered by United Healthcare has the same benefits and cost sharing provisions as the WEA Trust plan … Continue reading Racine Health Care Costs & Teacher Layoffs

Insurance trumps teachers’ raises

Jake Rigdon: The dilemma has hit smaller school districts the hardest. According to unofficial estimates, health insurance premiums are expected to increase between 16 percent and 23 percent in the next school year in the Athens, Auburndale, Edgar, Marathon, Spencer, Stratford and Tomahawk school districts, affecting more than 460 teachers. Some districts pay 100 percent … Continue reading Insurance trumps teachers’ raises

Affordable Health Care: Four Wisconsin Proposals

A forum hosted by Progressive Dane and The Edgewood College Human Issues Program. Thursday, April 6th 6:30 to 8:30 at Edgewood College’s Anderson Auditorium, in the Predolin Humanities Center. Access to health insurance has become a national crisis, but there are bold, creative proposals to fix it. Please join us to hear four great proposals … Continue reading Affordable Health Care: Four Wisconsin Proposals

Teachers bar shift in health coverage

Madison’s teachers union said Friday it will not agree to reopen its contract with the School District to renegotiate health-care benefits, dashing hopes the district could find cheaper coverage. A joint committee of district and union representatives has been studying rising health- care costs, but both sides had to agree to reopen the 2005-07 contract … Continue reading Teachers bar shift in health coverage

One of these things is not like the others: School Board Oversees Task Forces Except When Savings in Health Care Costs at Stake

Recently, the Madison School Board has authorized a plethora of special committees to consider issues confronting the district and to make recommendations to the board. These committees have the potential to improve future board decisions by bringing new ideas and new information to our attention. Currently, there is a special committee to advise the board … Continue reading One of these things is not like the others: School Board Oversees Task Forces Except When Savings in Health Care Costs at Stake