McClaughry: Seizing the trainer medical insurance alternative

by John McClaughry The sudden political battle over medical insurance for unionized lecturers isn’t over however some helpful classes are rising. This battle was triggered by a provision of ObamaCare referred to as “the Cadillac tax”. Beginning in 2018, plans with premiums of over $10,800 a yr for people and $29,500 for households will face a crushing 40% tax on these premiums.

Congress has delayed the Cadillac tax earlier than, and will accomplish that once more. However subsequent yr college workers should be in one of many Vermont Schooling Well being Initiative plans designed to flee the tax.

In mid-April, with the Senate laborious at work on the Home-passed price range, Governor Phil Scott abruptly produced a significant new proposal or, it turned out, a requirement.

The end result envisioned by the governor is eminently fascinating. Faculty workers would enroll in a VEHI “Gold-level” medical insurance plan, with premiums far beneath these of the “plutonium” stage plans negotiated by the lecturers’ union. This is able to lead to diminished college price range bills of $75 million.

Out of that $75 million, Scott proposes to yearly fund trainer Well being Financial savings Accounts in quantities massive sufficient to carry the lecturers innocent from the Gold plan’s greater deductibles and co-pays. By proudly owning their very own HSAs, the staff would develop into extra delicate to the advantages of preventive care, and cut back their overutilization of “free” well being care.

Scott says this new association would produce “as much as $26 million” that may decrease college property taxes.

The issue lies in getting from at present to that final result. The Governor desires to personally negotiate with the lecturers’ union to impact these modifications. The Vermont-NEA union is wedded – some would say fanatically wedded – to maintaining well being advantages of their negotiations with native districts.

Senator Tim Ashe’s counterproposal on the union’s behalf is to have the State power college boards to one way or the other reduce their budgets if they aren’t capable of negotiate the precise quantity of reductions prescribed by the State within the laws. It’s laborious to think about a extra insulting and demoralizing intrusion into what’s left of “native management.”

The laborious fact is that the union can’t “negotiate” with the State. The State has all of the playing cards, and the union has principally none (apart from a statewide strike and political revenge).

Scott must drop his hasty, late within the recreation proposal to have the State (him) negotiate with the union. Then we must always do what we did with trainer retirement in 1946. The legislature ought to enact a legislation that makes trainer medical insurance a state-specified profit, defines the protection, HSA contributions, and the 80/20 premium break up (as for state workers now), and obliges the legislature to switch the required premium {dollars} from the Schooling Fund to VEHI. If the union thinks it isn’t getting sufficient – a power situation – it may possibly enchantment to the legislature to vary the legislation.

This leaves untouched the union’s statutory privilege to discount with native districts over wage schedules, grievance procedures,  hours of labor, pupil self-discipline, sick depart, seniority, termination, holidays, particular obligation provisions, class schedules, dues deductions, and a dozen extra points typically topic to bargaining.

In 2011 the Vermont-NEA aggressively supported Governor Shumlin’s Inexperienced Mountain Care, which might have taken well being care out of union bargaining altogether. In 2013 it efficiently supported a legislation imposing company charges on non-members as an alternative of leaving it as a difficulty for native bargaining. One would suppose it will be content material to get the sophisticated problem of medical insurance off the native bargaining desk as effectively. However… NO!

Why is the union so fanatic about preserving “native management”? By no means thoughts the rhetoric about “finest for the group”, “a sacrosanct proper”, and even “don’t take energy away from working ladies”. The true purpose is defined in a superb report by Tiffany Pache on Vermont Digger (Could 18).

The union’s seven UniServe Administrators ($136,000 a yr wage, plus advantages) stage handle native trainer negotiators dealing with usually inexperienced college board members. Their whipsaw technique is to get a positive provision into one district’s contract, after which use that as a “comparable” to influence “truth finders” to rule in favor of the union’s demand in different extra resistant districts.

Scrapping the concept of “negotiations” over taxpayer-paid medical insurance advantages altogether will make the union howl. However it may possibly nonetheless play its whipsaw recreation with wage schedules and the various different contract points, a minimum of till taxpayers stiffen up and do one thing about it.

Democratic legislators want to inform the Vermont-NEA that Scott’s desired final result gives many advantages for each lecturers and taxpayers. However to attain them, the Democrats ought to clarify that they aren’t going to impose impractical and belittling situations on native college districts simply to protect the union’s observe of whipsawing districts on well being advantages, along with all the opposite negotiated advantages.

If the Democrats can’t stand as much as the union to make this general good thought occur, they’re fairly more likely to hear rather a lot about it within the fall of 2018.

John McClaughry is vice chairman of the Ethan Allen Institute (

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