News Story

Unusual: For 30 Years Teachers Share Almost Half of Health Care Cost in Grand Ledge

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that a teacher would pay $1,509 a month for a family health plan. That is actually the district’s entire cost for a family plan including health, dental, vision, life insurance and long term disability. The article has been changed.

A teacher working at the Grand Ledge Public School District pays 46.5 percent of the premium cost for the district’s most popular individual health care plan. That is a sharp contrast to numerous other school districts in the state that cover 100 percent of those costs for their educators. But that isn’t a new board-imposed directive in the face of looming budget cuts by the district, which is about 12 miles west of Lansing. In fact, it’s been around for about 30 years, according to Daniel Davis, assistant superintendent for human resources.

At a time when health care costs are rising, Grand Ledge has one of the most aggressive cost-sharing agreements in the state. The district has a cap on what it will pay for health care benefits. Currently, it’s $362.55 per month for a single-person plan. The employee would pay $315.31 per month. Teachers chip in for 46.5 percent of the costs of health care.

This is additionally striking because it is more than double the private-sector average. Employees in the private sector pay an average of 20 percent of their health care premiums when they are taking advantage of an employer-provided health care plan.

Davis said if the cap wasn’t adopted about three decades ago, it would be very difficult to get a similar cost-sharing agreement in place.

“We’d be like every other district that would be sitting there trying to get people to pay 5 to 10 percent,” Davis said.

Now, teachers are looking into dropping the current health care plan and shopping for something less expensive.

“We are only going to pay a certain amount,” Davis said. “If they can find something else (less expensive), they can give themselves a raise.”

Capping what a school district is willing to pay for health care is not a new concept. Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler proposed such a plan in 2009 while testifying before a state House of Representatives committee.

Michael Van Beek, the education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said such premium caps are very rare throughout Michigan. But he noted that Grand Ledge debunks the belief that “Cadillac” insurance programs are needed to keep teachers in a district.

“Grand Ledge is doing just fine as a school district by most people’s standards and not paying an exorbitant amount for health insurance,” he 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.