The District has given us another example of why our health care system is so completely off the rails.
The Board provides to all full-time employees, defined as at least 37.5 hours per week, a $6,500 yearly contribution ($541.67 per month) toward their insurance. Those that work between 30 and 37.49 hours per week receive a yearly contribution of $5,800 ($483.33 per month). The employee may also personally pay for coverage for the rest of his family. These are not overgenerous benefits.
The Insurance Committee has been meeting for months to work on a new plan for the District. I am on that Committee appointed by the Martin County Taxpayers Association. The Committee has been working on looking at plans for some time.
After much discussion and really hard work, the Committee did come up with plans that seemed to be a good deal for the District and the teachers. It will offer 4 tiers: employee only, employee and spouse, employee and child, employee and family, 2 employee family (this is the same as employee and family only it has the District contributing for both employees) There are also three plans: HMO, HDHP, and PPO.
In the past, there were only two classifications and now there will be 4. In many cases, this change saves the employee money. It also makes the District more competitive against Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties in keeping and attracting employees. The District has a savings of $180,000 per year, and the employees have a cumulative savings of $1,270,000 per year. However, the employee-and-family tier have an increase in premium.
The Board likes it except for the increase to one classification of employees. Defenthaler asked why the Committee voted unanimously given those facts and were other things considered?
There were other options such as self-insurance. Other governments, such as the City of Stuart, self-insure. It is true that during the first roughly 3 years, it costs more because a reserve must be accumulated. After that, there could be significant savings. Though I asked the question, it was obvious that self-insurance wasn’t going to be accepted by the Committee.
Could the Committee have opted to lessen the amount of premium to families by having the other tiers pay some of the increase resulting in less savings? Yes, it could have been a discussion. That too appeared to be a non-starter with the rest of the Committee. The Committee is comprised of many people. A School Board Member, Department Heads, teachers, retirees, union representatives, and me. I was the only member that would not receive any benefit. Everyone, including School Board Members, are on the medical insurance plan.
So perhaps where I would, as a taxpayer, want to really explore the alternatives, those that are directly affected have other concerns. I would have wanted to dig deeper into self-insurance because, in the long term, there could be savings. Those savings would only occur in the future not in the present. My motives are different than those receiving an immediate benefit. While it could have been beneficial to all employees in the future, I didn’t fight as hard as I could have since the amount to be paid by the Board through taxes was allocated by union contract.
That went out the window when the School Board began speaking about equity. There was no talk about shared sacrifice. One thought was to have the premium dollars switched around to lessen the savings to one group for the benefit of their fellow employees. Everyone is in it together until people personally will have to pay more. And apparently even though several School Board Members stated they could afford the increase, the other employees could not.
The Board is right that it would be a large increase for that tier. By expanding to 4 tiers, it does make it easier for teacher recruitment, and it is not like Martin County pays the rank and file a lot of money. Providing additional non-monetary compensation is an attractive option. A savings to the district of $180,000 turns out to be an added expense of $330,000 so that those in the employee with family coverage do not pay any more than before.
A motion was made by Roberts and seconded by Defenthaler. It passed 5-0.
To see all the information regarding the plans and premiums: