Monday, February 17, 2014

School Financial Woes: Health Ins. Costs or Health Care Costs

For years teachers (and other school employees) received a benefit: their health insurance was paid by the district taxpayers. At the time this was offered to employees, it seemed to be a good idea. Of course, few seemed to recognize that health insurance costs could skyrocket in the future.

 I was on the Board of Ed. for most of the 1990's as HI costs rose 20% per year. During my second stint on the PCS BOE, HI costs started to bury the district financially. Jobs were being cut because more and more money was needed for health insurance premiums. Management focused on how the district could mitigate this onerous cost by negotiating insurance premium co-pays from employees. This is wrong-minded.

 Having employees pay a percentage of their premiums will not solve the problem of hugely escalating premium costs. Health care costs need to be addressed - not employee co-pays. Board members, administrators, teachers, and CSEA employees should be using their collective influence (NYSSBA, SAANYS, NYSUT, CSEA) to lobby state leaders to do something about runaway health care costs. 

Health insurance is an essential part of the social safety net. A vigorous middle class is vital to the country's future but the middle class is getting poorer and poorer. (Consider the fact that, "The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation's wealth. In fact, just 400 Americans own more wealth than 150 million Americans combined."*) High health insurance premiums are symptoms of a problem that needs to be addressed - bloated health care costs.

David Acker, CEO of the Canton-Potsdam Hospital, spoke publicly about this issue last year. He said, "The heart of the problem is the uncontrolled health care spending that is blowing up his (the PCSD superintendent's) budget - whether for current employees or retirees - and the hospital is the face of that problem. And if we stay on that path, where our hospitals go is to get more of the school's money, and we will sink them, which will sink us, which will sink others."

Isn't it time for us all to do something so our modern day Titanic can avoid that iceberg?

* Hartmann, Thom, The Crash of 2016, p. 82.

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