Favorite

The Arkansas legislature punts 

click to enlarge APPLIED A PATCH: The Arkansas General Assembly, meeting for a special session image
  • Brian Chilson
  • APPLIED A PATCH: The Arkansas General Assembly, meeting for a special session.

I wrote this before the Arkansas legislature convened Monday for a three-day session to do something about school employee insurance, provide money for prisons and halt, at least temporarily, an expansion by the Arkansas Lottery into video games like keno.

School insurance was the driving force behind the special session. The session need not have begun, however, to pronounce the certain valedictory on the pre-agreed agenda. The legislature intended to apply a patch, and not much of one.

The legislature's "fix" for already overpriced school insurance was to limit yet another huge rate increase by these means: 1) tap school districts for almost $5 million that they'd rather spend on something else; 2) throw spouses off the plan; 3) throw 4,000 part-time workers off the plan; 4) stop coverage of most bariatric surgery.

These steps are supposed to hold a premium increase for school employees to 3 percent on popular coverage. But premiums aren't the whole story. Increases in deductibles and co-pays mean medical attention will cost still more for school employees who require it. (One barebones policy mentioned in pre-session discussions reportedly has a $13,000 limit on out-of-pocket medical costs. That's self-insurance.)

The legislature wants to produce something for nothing. It won't put an additional dime into school employee insurance. What's worse, some legislators are talking about future privatizing of school employee coverage (though not that of other state employees, including legislators). It will take a magic feat to give school employees the same or better coverage at lower rates after insurance companies take a 15 percent rake of the money.

Here's all you need to know about the lack of fairness. Consider two state employees.

You are a part-time state legislator: You qualify for health insurance. Next year, you will still qualify for health insurance. The coverage for you and your family in 2014, on the Cadillac, no-deductible gold plan costs $423.60 a month. The state contributes, between direct contributions and support from reserves, $928.51 a month to cover the rest.

You are a part-time school cafeteria worker. You qualify for health insurance this year. Next year, you won't. This year, that Cadillac gold plan costs you $1,132.96 a month. The state and school districts contribute $708.64 to cover the rest. Sound fair to you? Of course it isn't. Teachers are unhappy that legislative proposals don't close the gap. Yes, some richer school districts contribute additional amounts to help employees. But many don't. To say school districts could pay more is to misunderstand the vast disparity in district wealth and to ignore the requirement for spending sufficient to deliver equal and adequate education.

School districts are creatures of the state, as much as public agencies. The first 25 mills of school property tax are considered a state millage and thus it is state money, along with additional state foundation funding, tapped for employees.

In the name of economy, the legislature is favoring themselves and other state employees over another class of state workers, teachers.

There is a touch of fairness in one terrible legislative "fix."

The legislature intends to prevent spouses of either state insurance plan from receiving coverage if they have insurance at their own jobs, no matter if it's skimpy coverage or much more costly (such as the school employees' insurance).

A merged system would mean more participants and broader sharing of catastrophic costs. No legislator seems interested in the impact of a merger on overall expenses or what the impact would be of equalization of state contributions to public and school employees.

The Republican majority will do anything for teachers except spend money on them.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Arkansas Legislature, public School Employee Insurance

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • We're No. 1! in vote suppression

    It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Bangin' in LR

    About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, with the Power Ultra Lounge downtown jammed for a rap show by Finese2Tymes (Ricky Hampton of Memphis), gunfire broke out. Before it was over, 25 people had been wounded by gunfire and three others injured in the rush for safety.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Turn to baseball

    • leave the rules the way they are. teach players how to hit, don't legislate no…

    • on July 20, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • The beautiful new 12th St. Precinct is full of empty rooms: Why not create a…

    • on July 20, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • Religious charlatans have been around for centuries. They prey on the weak, sick, poorly educated…

    • on July 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation