News Story

Employee Health Insurance Premium Co-Pays Still Rare at Public Schools

In the Saline Public Schools, teachers pay no premium or deductible for their health care insurance.

But, wrote Saline superintendent Scot Graden in an email: “We begin negotiations related to health care in January. … As a district we need to get a handle on the cost of employee health care.  Whether it is based on premium co-pays, benefit levels, higher deductibles, etc... doesn't matter - we simply need to save our resources to provide the programs and services our students’ need.”

School districts across Michigan are beginning to address how much teachers pay for their health benefits. Based on a Mackinac Center for Public Policy 2008-09 survey, about 300 districts did not require teachers to contribute to their premiums. Many still do not.

In Troy, the school district pays for most of the teachers’ premiums. There is a $200 annual deductable for a single person and a $400 annual deductible for a family.

In Livonia, teachers have started contributing $560 to $960 to the school district’s health care costs within the last school year, according to Livonia Public Schools' spokeswoman Donna McDowell.

Although some schools are getting away from paying for 100 percent of the costs, it is still not comparable to the private sector, said Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center’s director of education policy.

Charlie Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said school districts need to offer “a real world plan like everyone else.” He said the problem is that school districts don’t have the bargaining muscle that the teachers’ unions do.

“They are outgunned by the unions,” Owens said. “That is why you get the nibbling at the edges, ‘Oh. We’ll take a $200 flat deductible.’ It still isn’t a realistic real world plan.”

Governor-elect Rick Snyder’s administration is going to have to mandate a health care plan for school districts that is more affordable, Owens said. He pointed to two pieces of legislation that didn’t get passed during Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s time in office.

2009 Senate Bill 1047 would have required government employees to contribute at least 20 percent of the premium and other costs of their health insurance.
2009 Senate Joint Resolution P would have created a constitutional amendment that would have given the legislature the final say on cost sharing for all government employee health insurance.

“That is the only way this is going to happen,” Owens said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.