As election nears, teachers’ premium cost is a hot topic for BASD board
By Jennifer Eisenbart
While the April School Board elections may still be months away, the first salvos in what will probably be a long fight were fired Monday night.
Burlington Area School District School Board member and candidate for re-election Larry Anderson read a prepared statement on health insurance costs for the district, and board member Roger Koldeway responded with a second letter at Monday night’s general board meeting.
Anderson touted his contention that BASD is among the best in the state in terms of saving taxpayers the cost of insurance. Koldeway, however, countered that the district could save even more by requiring all teachers to pay a portion of their premium.
Anderson has been researching the costs of health insurance, and it has turned into a multi-page document. While the numbers being compared are not precisely apples to apples – Anderson was forced to use 2011-12 number for other school districts, while BASD 2012-13 numbers are available – comparing the numbers still provides a bit of insight into the district’s methods.
There are just 20 districts statewide – and none in the immediate seven-county southeast Wisconsin area – with cheaper health insurance costs for single coverage, and 50 with cheaper family coverage (only four in the seven-county area, which is Racine, Walworth, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee).
According to the research Anderson did, using numbers on the Wisconsin Association of School Boards School District Settlement Database, the average monthly cost for single coverage is $682 for 2011-12, and for a family plan, $1,609.
Also, Burlington is not the only school district in the state not requiring employees to pay a percentage of their premiums, though most districts did. According to the data, Clinton, Delavan-Darien, Edgerton, Greenwood, Hustisford, Kickapoo Area, Marathon, Melrose-Mindoro, New Berlin, Phelps, Pittsville, Port Edwards, Three Lakes and West De Pere all paid 100 percent of the premium for single coverage, while just Delavan-Darien, Hustisford, Kickapoo, Marathon, Melrose-Mindoro and New Berlin offered 100 percent coverage for family plans.
On average, districts are paying 90 percent of the costs for single coverage and 89 percent for family coverage.
Anderson has been an advocate of showing the savings BASD has managed through the change of insurance plans, vs. the previous use of the WEA Trust plan. Had the district chosen to stay with that plan, it would have had to require a premium payment by employees – and likely would not have gotten near as much in savings because of the cost of that plan.
BASD is currently offering two different plans by Humana – a high-deductible plan ($1,500 single, $3,000 family) but offering an upgrade to last year’s plan (one offering lower deductibles and copays) if employees pay the difference in premium.
Using those two plans, BASD realized about $761,244 in savings.
Critics of the district have said that BASD has not utilized all tools given to it by Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 – namely requiring a portion of the premium be paid by all employees – and thus missed out on saving even more money.
However, Anderson and other district officials have maintained that by asking employees to either use the high deductible plan – which would likely involve out-of-pocket costs at some point for most employees – or to pay the premium costs of the upgrade has, in essence, asked enough of its employees this year.
School Board member Roger Koldeway, one of those in favor of requiring all employees to pay a portion of their premiums, revealed Monday night that he was “uncomfortable” with a recent statement by Anderson in the Racine Journal-Times that said had the staff paid premiums, a more costly health insurance plan would have likely been used.
Presumably, Anderson meant that had the district stuck with a plan that required employees to pay part of the premium – namely the WEA Trust – the costs would have risen.
However, Koldeway took his inquiry to Dan Martin of Hausmannn-Johnson, the district’s insurance broker, where it was revealed that, in order to save money, the district needed 75 percent of its employees to enroll in the plan.
Koldeway said that the board needed to use full and accurate information in its decision-making process, not “cherry pick information to sway other’s opinions.”
What has become clear, though, is that plenty of information is available for anyone willing to do the research – whether it is Anderson, Koldeway or other members of the board. The question then goes back to what has been the major point of contention over the past year and a half – what should be expected of teachers?
Looking at Anderson’s numbers, the district has achieved considerable savings – among the best in the state. By Koldeway’s viewpoint, however, those savings could have been greater.