Pay premiums? Two views

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February 17, 2008
— Why should or shouldn’t Janesville teachers pay health-care premiums for their health coverage?

Here’s some of the reasoning from each side.

Teachers say:

-- Teachers already pay some of their health-care expenses. They say very few school districts statewide, and none located near Janesville, have such a high co-pay percentage.

“We pay two $100 deductibles—major medical and medical,” said Jennifer Fanning, co-lead negotiator for the union. “We pay a 20 percent co-pay for every major medical visit with no maximum out-of-pocket expenses on co-pay.”

-- 85 percent of Wisconsin school districts have higher per-member health-care costs than Janesville.

-- “Janesville teachers have significantly sacrificed with less than cost-of-living raises since 1993 to ensure health insurance costs are being met appropriately,” according to www.supportjea.com.

-- “We gave back the Act 11 money, $1.1 million, in 2001, that was by law the teacher's money, … to cover the claims that went over budget that year,” Fanning said.

Whether the money legally belonged to the teachers is in question. See below.

School board says:

-- The Act 11 money actually was a credit to the employer, said Angel Tullar, manager of employee relations. Tullar cited the 2001-03 contract language: “The board and the JEA agree the $1.1 million credit will not be considered as part of this settlement. The amount will be applied to address the health-care deficit of $1.8 million for 2000-01.”

-- Paying premiums would increase awareness of the cost of insurance and encourage responsible use of benefits, Tullar said.

-- Many Janesville residents must pay premiums for their health insurance and want public employees to do the same.

-- Most new district employees drop other coverage and use the district’s to pay claims for their entire family. “With a premium share, employees will look at both policies available and choose the policy most appropriate for their family,” Tullar said

-- Research indicates that wellness programs do not work unless there are financial incentives involved. (The board’s proposal cuts the premium share for those in the wellness program.)

-- An Exclusive Provider Option—a self-funded HMO—could help the district reduce costs in the future. Without premium payments, there is no incentive to choose the EPO.

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