south easterSchools health plans more costly than businesses

And as is widely known, teachers contributions to the premium cost is small – about 5% on average statewide, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

The numbers alone, Jensen south easterSchools health plans more costly than businessessaid, dont say anything about the design of the health plans, the pool of people being insured and their health risks, or the overall compensation packages.

The figures are for 2009-10. The association has some health insurance data for 2010-11, but it isnt as comprehensive.

"Public sector employees will tell you over and over and over again that they bargain for rich benefits because they didnt bargain for rich salaries," Jensen said.

The latest HCTrends report summarizes data reported to the state school boards association by 89 school districts in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.

HCTrends maintains a website and publishes a newsletter on health care issues. It is financed primarily by The Benefit Services Group Inc., a Pewaukee-based insurance brokerage that helps large employers put together benefit packages.

One difference, according to WEACs Brey, is that 75% of teachers are women, and health care costs are higher for women than for men.

In some districts, WEA Trust has no competition for the health-insurance business, Serio said.

School districts in southeastern Wisconsin pay significantly more for health insurance than do private businesses – as much as 76% more – and their employees bear much less of the overall cost, an analysis released Wednesday shows.

The reports information on private-sector costs comes from a 2010 HCTrends survey of 121 businesses with at least 100 employees each.

Its report says school districts in the region would save some $221 million a year if their teacher health plans mirrored the average private-sector plan.

Another benefits consultant, Andy Serio, said plan design is a key element driving overall costs.

Also at issue, he said, is the role of the WEA Trust, a WEAC-affiliated nonprofit that insures employees in about two-thirds of the states school districts.

WEA Trust representatives could not be reached late Wednesday. But last month, a spokesman said the company is competitive on price, and that it is named in only a third of the labor contracts of districts where it provides insurance. The company has said that 93% of the premium money it collects goes to pay for actual health care while some for-profit firms keep as much as 20%.

Generally, he said, teachers plans have lower deductibles, lower co-payments and lower out-of-pocket spending limits – all of which means higher premiums.

For mily coverage, the school districts paid 33% more.

"Youre comparing a grape and a grapefruit," he said.

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For single coverage, southeastern Wisconsin school districts paid 76% more than private businesses in 2009-10, according to HCTrends.

But teachers health insurance must be considered alongside salaries that are relatively low considering their levels of education, said Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the states largest teachers union.

"Its day and night," he said.

Brian H. Jensen, an independent health care consultant, said its problematic to stack the private-sector costs against those of the school districts.

Another ctor, he said, is that private-sector plans tend to exclude one of the areas four south eastern healthmajor heath care provider networks. Teachers plans tend to include every doctor and hospital, which boosts costs, Serio said.

"When total compensation is examined, the salaries and the benefits are combined, it shows that teachers are underpaid compared with private sector counterparts – that is, people who (are) college educated or have graduate degrees in the private sector," Brey said.

The private employers surveyed paid an average of $5,125 for single coverage and $15,500 for a mily plan. Private companies with unions paid more – $5,625 for single coverage, $16,000 for mily – but still significantly less than the school districts.

Less discussed has been the cost of the insurance plans, which significantly outweigh those offered by private-sector employers, according to an analysis by HCTrends, which describes itself as "a market-oriented forum" on health care issues.

Private-sector workers in southeastern Wisconsin pay about 25% of their health-insurance premiums, on average, according to HCTrends.

Most teachers and other public employees will pay at least 12% if Walkers budget-repair bill, which has been approved by the Legislature, withstands a legal challenge.

south easterSchools health plans more costly than businesses,The relatively small contribution teachers in general make to their insurance coverage drew considerable attention during the superheated debate over Gov. Scott Walkers budget-repair bill and his bid to sharply limit collective bargaining by most government employees.

On average, the school districts paid $9,024 for a single-coverage plan, and $20,628 for a mily plan, according to the report.

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