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July 2, 2006

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 WEA's rates increased nearly 20% last year and were projected for a similar increase this year, the district negotiated a deal directly with Dean.

When the Dean plan goes into effect Sept. 1, the district's premiums will drop enough that it can offer a starting salary $2,000 above what it paid last school year and yet the health plan will stay the same, Mikula said. Several other Dane County districts also have switched to Dean.

"I don't see that our teachers made a concession because really the only thing that's changing in theory is the name on the card," she said. "But for the name on the card not to say WEA is huge."

According to the school boards association, fringe benefits made up 34% of the average teacher's compensation package in the 2004-'05 school year vs. 24% less than two decades before.

Sun Prairie School District website.

Jason Shephard noted earlier this year that the most recent attempt by the Madison School District to evaluate health care costs was a "Sham(e)":
Last week, Madison Teachers Inc. announced it would not reopen contract negotiations following a hollow attempt to study health insurance alternatives.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who suggests the Joint Committee on Health Insurance Issues conducted a fair or comprehensive review needs to get checked out by a doctor.

The task force’s inaction is a victory for John Matthews, MTI’s executive director and board member Wisconsin Physicians Service.

Losers include open government, school officials, taxpayers and young teachers in need of a raise.

From its start, the task force, comprised of three members each from MTI and the district, seemed to dodge not only its mission but scrutiny.

Hoping to meet secretly until Isthmus raised legal questions, the committee convened twice for a total of four hours – one hour each for insurance companies to pitch proposals.

No discussion to compare proposals. No discussion about potential cost savings. No discussion about problems with WPS, such as the high number of complaints filed by its subscribers.

The Madison School Board recently discussed their 2006/2007 goals (my suggestsions). The Wisconsin State Journal noted that there are some early positive signs that things might change.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 2, 2006 6:51 AM
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