The first thing that jumps out is that the health insurance plans that Wisconsin’s school districts give to their employees are still very generous. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We want our teachers to have good health insurance, but many private employers offer good health insurance and their costs are lower.
The average yearly premium for a family plan in Wisconsin’s school districts is $20,062.44. That compares to an average yearly premium of $18,764 in the U.S. For some rough math… if 50% of the 108,820 Wisconsin public school employees have a family plan and paid the national average, it would save taxpayers over $70 million per year – and district employees would still be receiving good health insurance.
The second thing that jumps out is that school districts are not taking advantage of Act 10 to control costs. Act 10 decoupled benefits decisions from union negotiations and left them at the discretion of the governing body. In this case, the local school boards have the power to determine the health insurance plans offered and the amount that employees pay for their share.
Across all 422 Wisconsin School Districts, Employees still only pay an average of 11.7% of the cost of their health insurance premiums for a family plan and 11.5% for a single plan. This is far below the average for private or government employees. According to the BLS, private sector employees pay an average of 33% of their health insurance premiums. State and local government employees pay an average of 29%! So here in Wisconsin, public school employees are paying less than half what other state and local employees pay for health insurance despite local school boards having complete power to being their employees into the national mainstream.
Clearly, there is still plenty of money to waste in our schools.
A Closer Look at the West Bend School District
Of course, since I live in the West Bend School District and they are preparing to ask the tax payers for tens of millions of dollars in a referendum despite declining enrollment, I have to take a look at my own district.
In the West Bend School District, the annual premium for a family plan is well above the state average coming in at $21,864. That does not include the fact that the school district provides an on-site clinic that provides services at no cost to the employees and without any co pays.
While receiving a more expensive health insurance plan, West Bend School District employees pay far less than other districts. Employees pay 8.2% of the premium for a family plan and 13.3% for a single plan. Furthermore, employees can earn a premium differential. The report doesn’t say how employees qualify for the differential, but a premium differential is generally a discount for things like not smoking, participating in wellness activities, etc. If an employee qualifies for the entire differential, their percentage for a family plan drops to 2.7% of the total premium, or $49 per month.
Just to recap, for a family plan, the average American state or local government employee pays 29% of the premium, the average Wisconsin school district employee pays 11.7%, and an employee of the West Bend School District pays 8.2%.
If the West Bend School District merely adopted a health insurance plan that was near the national average and asked employees to pay for 29%, it would save taxpayers $8,393 – PER FAMILY POLICY PER YEAR.
I ask the taxpayers of West Bend to remember these numbers when the district comes around again claiming poverty and asking for more money. The West Bend School Board, despite their claims of conservative leadership, are failing to manage benefits costs even to national or state norms.