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Thursday, June 19, 2014

This is a solution to teacher insurance problem?

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 7:05 AM

The legislature apparently is nearing consensus among members on a "solution" to the teacher insurance crisis.

It is no solution.

The emerging legislation rests — first — on stealing school district money (savings on federal payroll taxes that accrue from insurance contributions) and applying it to insurance costs. This is called robbing Peter to pay Paul. That money is budgeted for other uses in the school districts already.

It also rests on tossing part-time employees off insurance and into the potential welcoming arms of Obamacare, a program that a healthy segment of the legislature is vowing to kill in Arkansas.

It also rests on tossing spouses of school district employees off insurance coverage if they can get coverage at work (never mind if it's expensive and sucky). This is NOT, you may be sure, a rule that applies to the cheaper coverage afforded state employees. Teachers would also lose coverage for weight-loss surgery.

This fix couldn't be simpler. Or harder.

School district employees are really state employees, too. Coverage for all state employees should be the same. Problem fixed. (A tip of the hat to Br'er Rapert, this once, for speaking some common sense on merging the plans.)

Oh, but it would cost money to equalize rates, or else pain to the cosseted state employees. This legislature won't do that (they're covered by the cheaper state employee plan themselves). Additional money is out of the question because the legislature has to protect the capital gains tax cut for millionaires, among others. Better to beggar the school districts.

The state also has to come up with some money to put criminals in jail at the special session. Maybe they could slap a special assessment on sheriff's offices to pay for it.


PS — I'd sure like to see the spread sheet of how these proposed givebacks by school districts work out district by district. The inequities are certain to be huge. Little Rock, which contributes a huge amount to its employees insurance coverage, seems likely to be a multi-million-dollar provider. Legislators would LOVE that, of course — taking Little Rock property tax receipts to cover miserly insurance elsewhere in the state. While they feel no pain on their sweetheart insurance coverage — as part-time employees, I might add.

UPDATE: I finally, late in the day, got an explanation on this. It is the takeback is only in the amount each district realizes from the uniform per-employee state contribution to health insurance, not the savings it gets in payroll taxes on its own contributions. The total taken from the districts is reportedly to be $4.5 million. It is still money from general expenditures, if not as much as I feared. The state's theory is that it is money it sends for health insurance and it's not unfair to capture any savings from it for that purpose.

PPS — Do charter schools that provide some insurance coverage have to give up some of their money, too?

UPDATE: A spokesman for the governor says that if charter school employees are in the system the takeback of payroll tax savings will be taken from them, too.

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Speaking of State Teacher Insurance, special Legislative Session

  • UPDATE: Special session coming with bills on insurance, prisons

    June 23, 2014
    Gov. Mike Beebe's office said today that consensus apparently had been reached on a temporary fix to avoid catastrophic increases in school employees health insurance and he'd call a special session to pass agreed legislation on insurance and increased money for prisons. UPDATE: The session will be next week and criticism of the "solution" is already being heard. /more/
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