Caledonian Record: "Maybe Next Time"

Caledonian Record: "Maybe Next Time"

The Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI) recently reported that educator health insurance premiums are anticipated to rise 7-16% in 2018, with official rate increases still subject to Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation.

Readers should recall that there was quite a tussle in May/June between Gov. Phil Scott’s administration and the Vermont NEA allied with leadership in the House and Senate. We list Vermont NEA first, because they were really driving the bus for House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) and Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe (D). The brokered deal clawed back $26 million over two years from school districts because of the projected savings they would receive if they negotiated healthcare contracts according to guidelines set by VEHI.

While some districts followed these guidelines, predictably, many have not. Districts have figured out Vermont’s education funding system. They know that their resident taxpayers on average will cover less than half the cost of additional spending, with the balance covered by other Vermont property owners.

It is far easier for districts to give into the local education association, cover less than half the bill, and then blame the funding system and Montpelier for the rest. Vermont NEA makes out like a bandit because they get paid to negotiate all of these district healthcare contracts. Who gets screwed? That’s simple – taxpayers.

People in the Northeast Kingdom know there is no such thing as a free lunch. When districts on a statewide basis negotiate far more generous healthcare plans than recommended by VEHI, utilization of healthcare changes, becomes less efficient, and ultimately puts significant upward pressure on healthcare premiums - in this case about 7-16%.

Vermont’s school district boards are staffed by good people, they’re rational. While their healthcare decisions may make sense at the local level, they make little sense when looked at collectively on a statewide level. This is exactly why Gov. Scott advocated for a statewide negotiation. We applaud him for clawing back $26 million for taxpayers, but are disappointed that in the end the lack of a statewide negotiation will cost taxpayers far more.

The agreement reached in June provides for a study of a statewide educator healthcare negotiation and another bite at the apple in two years. Between now and then, please let your school boards and legislators know you support a statewide negotiation.