Vote No On Health Insurance Changes Affecting County Teachers

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Our Hamilton County School Board will vote on insurance changes effecting both active employees and retirees, who are not on Medicare at this time.  HCEA strongly objects to changes being made at this time and urges a “No” vote.  Insurance had been frozen three years by negotiations.  Since the Educators Professional Negotiations Act was nullified by the 2011 Legislature, the agreement was that we would address it in negotiations.  Now, under the new law, we will collaboratively conference.  These changes should be on the agenda for collaborative conferencing and not being determined only by management.

In a copy of a report to the School Board dated May 19, 2010, Ed Adams, a consultant to the Board, gave some interesting information that certainly speaks to our issue today.

First, only 58.5 percent of our employees used generic drugs.  By increasing by one percent, we could save approximately $247,000 annually.

Going to a three-tier drug co-pay system was to save the district $1.5 million a year.  We instituted it.

 The district instituted a 30-day maximum prescription at a retail pharmacy. This move was to save the system $668,100.

Additionally, 73 percent of our employees  have started using generic prescriptions from a mail plan through Caremark. Per percentage point using the generic mail order was to save $412,000 per year.  The industry (other school districts) average was 40.7 percent usage.  Therefore, our teachers are making a good faith effort to save the district money. We moved from seven percent to 73 percent usage because we talked about our district needing to contain costs so our teachers could get raises.  Again, this change was at no cost to the district.

 Other changes were recommended but these changes required the district to invest money in wellness suggestions such as reductions in the YMCA or other gym membership fees. Some suggestions required the district to investigate the nurses giving flu shots and routinely checking blood pressure of teachers.  Again, the district did nothing.

HCEA has helped to inform teachers that by saving the district money, resources could be made available for classroom needs and salaries.  So far, teachers are still using antiquated technology.  There was a raise last year, but before that we had not had a raise in three years.

 These insurance changes should be discussed at the Collaborative Conferencing table and this crisis is just a ploy to avoid the association's participation and rush the vote. Complying the law, HCEA cannot take a letter of intent to collaborate to our employer until October 1.  Indeed, these are unnecessarily harsh and costly insurance changes for employees and retirees whose work should be valued and respected.

A “No” vote is the only way to ensure complete fairness, objectivity, and integrity in making the decision.  The Board has not received current information from the vendors and no options for the Board to create opportunities for teachers improve their own health in a stressful occupation.

Sandy Hughes

Hamilton County Education Association

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