Workers: Health options too costly
JANESVILLE Several Janesville School Board members expressed dissatisfaction Thursday with the way district administrators are presenting health-insurance options for employees.
The district is working on a new health care system that will result in employees paying more for their health care starting July 1, when current union contracts run out.
If Wisconsin Act 10 is upheld in the courts, the school board will be able to impose the costs without negotiating new contracts.
Board members Kevin Murray, Karl Dommershausen and Dave DiStefano complained about the process.
Boyd Consulting Group, the district's insurance consultant, has presented two health plans employees could choose. Representatives of the various employee groups met for the second time Thursday night with the school board to discuss those options.
Three employee representatives expressed concern that higher costs would severely affect their members.
Terri Rauscher, a physical therapist representing workers who are not in unions, said some members of her group are considering their options in the private sector.
Rauscher suggested the district needs to offer less expensive options if it wants to keep good employees. Jim Dulin, who was representing maintenance workers, and Donna Stenner, chief steward for the union representing secretaries, clerks and aides, expressed similar concerns.
District officials have stated that retaining good employees is one of their top goals as they set benefit levels and workplace conditions that would start next school year.
The discussions have not included an exclusive provider organization with either Mercy Health System or Dean, Murray said. Such plans steer employees to providers in a limited network, but they offer cost savings in exchange.
"I need more options than just a cost shift to the employees," Murray said.
Bill Boyd said he discussed those options with Dean and Mercy and found that the reduced costs would be comparable to the discounts the district already gets through The Alliance, a health-care buying cooperative the district belongs to.
Murray said after the meeting that he was not satisfied and would investigate the matter. He said he helped negotiate an EPO for city of Janesville workers when he was a firefighter, and that improved coverage while lowering costs.
The entire board could direct the administration to seek other options, Superintendent Karen Schulte told Murray.
Board member Kristin Hesselbacher suggested the board discuss this at its meeting Tuesday.
Board President Bill Sodemann said the board could do so but would have to be careful about making decisions because that could be construed as an unfair labor practice in the wake of a court ruling that much of Act 10 is unconstitutional.
Murray said he's not opposed to employees paying more for insurance, but he wants to see options for saving money at the same time.
DiStefano said he would like to see five or six insurance options, with cost estimates, not just two. Limiting the health-care network, as an EPO does, should be explored further, DiStefano said.
Dommershausen said he was "shocked" when he saw how much money employees might contribute.
If the goal is to regain the best and brightest teachers, "I don't think this does it," Dommershausen said.
Just how much employees will pay remains uncertain. Sodemann said the original figure of about $7 million coming from 1,113 employees who are covered by district insurance was high and most likely will be "substantially" lower. He did not elaborate.
The board and employees will have another insurance meeting, Sodemann said. No date was set.