Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Health plan worth exploring

October 11, 2017

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A statewide health insurance plan for K-12 school employees is an idea worth exploring.

This year’s state budget includes a proviso that a task force be formed to “study, review and develop a plan for ... implementation and administration of a unified school district employee health care benefits program.” The idea was first proposed in a 2016 efficiency study by the consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal. The task force was recently formed and is expected to issue a report in January, ahead of the 2018 legislative session.

The consultants estimated a single, state-run, high-deductible plan could save upward of $80 million a year. That’s significant considering the Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled that the state’s school funding formula is inadequate and gave legislators until June 30, 2018, to come up with a revised plan that provides schools with more funding per student.

Presently, Kansas law requires health insurance plans to be negotiated between school districts and teachers.

Gov. Sam Brownback, who initiated the consultants’ review in 2015 as a way to identify efficiencies in state government, supports the single health-care plan idea. And a Legislative Post Audit report released in February said putting all K-12 employees into a single plan likely would save a considerable amount of money. But the audit also noted that only about 60 percent of the savings would be the result of increased efficiency.

“Having districts join a consolidated plan creates significant opportunities for savings through increased plan efficiency which would likely have little effect on employees,” the audit report said. “However, consolidation may also result in changes to coverage levels or employee contribution rates. These changes can shift healthcare costs from the district onto its employees or vice versa.”

Teacher groups have expressed reservation about the statewide health plan.

“A high-deductible plan might mean lower premiums paid, but would almost certainly also mean reduced benefits,” said David Reber, lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Association. “Both of those would mean an overall reduction in the amount and quality of compensation for Kansas’ K-12 teachers. The last thing Kansas teachers need is reduced compensation.”

But given the trends in health insurance coverage, changes in health benefits are likely for educators, whether the plan is negotiated at the district or state level. And it seems likely that costs and benefits in a negotiated statewide insurance plan could be better than what many small districts can negotiate independently.

There is much work that would need to be done to determine if a statewide health insurance plan for teachers is viable. But given the state of school funding in Kansas, it makes considerable sense to at least explore the idea.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

Larger deductibles is not the answer ...... the medicaid fiasco is why Kansas should not want these off the wall conservatives taking over medical insurance for our teachers.

It will be another scam on the teachers and the taxpayers.

Then larger profits for the conservatives drug of choice.

Teachers may want to consider look at organizing a nationwide network with their friends leading the way which is not the Kansas legislators.

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

Reasonable coverage:

  • Wellness

  • prescription drugs

• hospital

• surgical,

• outpatient services

• primary and preventive care

• emergency services,

• dental

• mental health

• home health

• physical therapy

• rehabilitation (including for substance abuse),

• vision care,

• hearing services including hearing aids

• chiropractic

• durable medical equipment

• palliative care

• long term care

NO DEDUCTIBLES – NO COPAYS

http://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/spreport.pdf

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

Teachers and taxpayers deserve a choice:

=== ObamaCare which retains the health insurance industry for those who fear the word Medicare or phrase Single Payer after all it is their dollar. This needs stiff federal regulations that cannot be superceded by the states. Offer a fair tax dollar rebate at the end of every year. Sooner or later this group will enroll in single payer.

=== Single Payer Medicare for ALL = excellent coverage for those who wish to enroll. The absolute best choice on planet earth. https://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/spreport.pdf

=== Self financed health care for those able to do so. Offer a fair tax dollar rebate at the end of every year.

=== ALL Disabled vets should receive Medicare with a 100% benefit so they and their families can receive medical care immediately upon discharge. Make it retroactive.

=== Business should not be forced to provide health insurance.

Calvin Anders 1 month, 1 week ago

Wow, LJW, your position is that poor health coverage for public educators is inevitable, so the state might as well get the ball rolling? Your "editorial" position seems to that the issue is already settled. Teachers should just close their eyes and think of England. The problem for educators and for voters is the legislature has proven itself over and over again not to be a constructive partner in finding good solutions for public education funding. Based on their track record, any action by the legislature would seek to strip health coverage to the bone and pass as much cost as possible to educators. Conservatives keep talking about how competition is the key to improving health care. Well, if that's true, they should offer an optional state wide insurance option for educators and if the plan meets the needs of an individual, they could enroll. I don't think they will do that, because the aim is really to degrade the quality of the coverage and stick educators with the bill. All to give wealthy donors and a few corporate fat cats more tax breaks.

Sam Crow 1 month, 1 week ago

Such a health care plan as proposed would have well over 30,000 potential participants.

Because of that, it could be comparable to any Fortune 500 corporate health care plan.

Properly designed, it would contract with major insurance companies to administer the program. Most companies use Aetna, United Health, and Blue Cross. They could compete with each other for participants.

Large corporate plans are multi-tiered with three levels of deductibles/co-pays, and in network/out network options. They are priced accordingly and participants can choose the one that most fits their needs.

Consider a health insurance system where United, having extensive experience with large corporate plans, competes with BCBS KS, the local non profit, for participants, based on benefits and costs to participants. It would be both cost effective because of the number of participants and efficient being run by companies that are experts.

Having such large numbers, a post retirement plan could also be financially feasible as a bridge to Medicare.

This is a good proposal. So whats wrong with it Reber ??

Calvin Anders 1 month, 1 week ago

What's wrong with it Sam, is that Alvarez and Marsal specifically recommended a "high deductible" plan designed to save the state money. The idea was to emphasize savings at the state level. And the "conservative" legislature has proven they have little interest in treating educators fairly. The concern is they would use this as an opportunity to cut costs to the bone and leave educators with really terrible coverage. If the jackals in the legislature could be trusted to negotiate solid coverage with reasonable employer contribution then they might be able to save some money and everyone might be happy. But no one honestly believes the state would try to work this as a win, win proposition. We all know they would go into this with hatchets flying, with no concern for the welfare of the teachers. The problem is the "conservative" legislature has proven themselves unworthy of the trust of educators and unworthy of the trust of voters. They are just a dishonorable bunch.

Sam Crow 1 month, 1 week ago

Though a consultants plan is a simply a recommendation, actual implementation of a plan does not have to be the same.

Again, competition between companies, and multi tiered plans within them, would bring results teachers would be happy with.

So what if a new system saves 40 million instead of 80 million.

We will see how smart the task force. is.

Michael Kort 1 month, 1 week ago

The state is out to game the teachers over their healthcare .

A continuation of Tax Cut Madness !

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