Union-backed health plan far more expensive than most other plans
The president of the state’s largest public school union pointed out in a recent newspaper article that a teacher will soon be paying $8,000 a year for his or her own insurance.
Yet the union itself is a major reason the teacher is facing higher out-of-pocket expenses, says one education expert. Insurance coverage is negotiated in union contracts and some districts are switching out of the more expensive union-backed Michigan Education Special Services Association plan to plans with less costly coverage — and saving their employees money.
In a recent Detroit News op-ed, MEA President Steven Cook said that a state law that caps how much a public employer will pay in health insurance premiums will cost a public school teacher $8,000.
But Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said such an expense would mean the health care premiums were $23,000 a year for a family plan, which is 75 percent more expensive than the typical private sector health care family plan.
The state put a cap on what a public employer can pay in premiums for an employee’s health insurance. It’s $5,500 for a single plan; $11,000 for two people; and $15,000 for a family.
Van Beek said he thinks that the teacher paying $8,000 must have the family plan because it’s unlikely a two-person plan would cost $19,000.
If Cook were truly concerned about his union members paying more out-of-pocket for their health insurance, he should look to what the Ravenna Public Schools has done.
Ravenna’s teachers voted to switch from the MESSA Choices II plan to a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan with a Health Savings Account, said Ravenna Superintendent John Van Loon.
The district has a hard cap of $14,000 a year it will pay for health insurance for its employees. By switching out of MESSA, the costs for a full-family plan went from $18,000 with MESSA to $14,900 for the new insurance, Van Loon said.
So the out-pocket-costs dropped from $4,800 to $900.
“It did save our employees a lot of money,” Van Loon said. “There are other plans out there that are much cheaper and still have excellent insurance. Our teachers’ group here found that.”
Cook didn’t reply to emails seeking comment.