Higher Deductible Health Plan the New Normal for WI Teachers

More Wisconsin school districts are moving their teachers to health plans with a higher deductible, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports. Since the curtailment of the teachers unions' collective bargaining rights two years ago, most districts have already raised premiums teachers are charged for their medical coverage, and are now saying that high-deductible plan is a prudent money-saving measure.

"With the cuts in state aid and the cuts in revenue limits, districts are looking for ways to make their dollars go further, and one of the ways to do that is by trying to reduce costs," said Dan Rossmiller, director of government relations at the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. "And a significant cost for many districts is in their health insurance they provide to employees."

The New Berlin School District expects to save $1.25 million this year after shifting to a medical plan with high upfront deductibles in October.

These kinds of plans put district benefits more in line with those offered in the private sector, but are very unusual in education where unions frequently accept better benefits packages even in lieu of raises in salary.

New Berlin School District now offers a health plan through United Healthcare with a $2000 individual and $4000 family deductible, an increase from $150 deductible plan offered last year. After the deductible is paid, the district will cover 80% of subsequent medical costs, while the employees will cover the remaining 20%.

To help ease the cost burden, the district began an employee wellness program that rewards participants by covering 75% of their deductibles. The program requires participants to complete a health risk assessment survey online, undergo biometric screening and actively work to address any health risks such as high cholesterol.

The director of business for the Greendale School District Erin Green says that it is only a matter of time before such plans become common in districts around the state. Spurred by the signing of Act 10 last year, which limited the state unions' collective bargaining ability and prohibited them from negotiating their health benefits packages entirely, many districts that had previously offered high deductible plans to non-union employees, have now began offering them directly to teachers. Green says that although in previous years teachers turned down such plans, as many as 70% have now enrolled.

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