Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The "truth" about our statewide health care bill

Tonight I had the opportunity to attend a Senate Commerce committee hearing on Education Minnesota's Statewide Health Care Pool for School Employees bill. This bill would create a statewide pool of 200,000 lives to control health care costs for all school employees across the state.

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers has supported this bill for the last 5 years and a couple of us were there tonight to hear the testimony. The testimony from Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher and a local president were very reflective of the discussions we have had at membership meetings and across St. Paul as we search for a solution to run-away health care costs that are pushing our families out of our pool and teachers out of our district.

However, the testimony that I found most interesting was that in opposition. First, the Minnesota State School Board association spoke against it. They argue that they value local control too much to support a bill that pools our health care costs. Here's the deal: the St. Paul School Board values their local control so much that they voted to authorize entering into a pool of school districts to purchase frozen food at a reduced price because they could better control the cost and get more value for their money. That's right Local 28 members, the school board takes the time to save some money on tater tots, but they have done nothing to ameliorate the insidious cost of family health insurance in our district or in our state. They value local control so much that they hide behind the position of the state school board association rather than researching the bill, talking to teachers and EAs in our district, and taking their own stand.

My next favorite testimony was from the Association of Insurance Underwriters because they took issue with the fact that in creating 6 different health insurance plans to most closely reflect the various plans that currently exist from district to district that one of the plans would be a "Cadillac" plan. This bothered the testifier a great deal because "the industry" is working to move people away from plans that insulate people from the cost of their health care plans. I appreciated his honesty a great deal. We always suspected that "the industry" was doing their best to design less health care for more money, but it was nice to have that confirmed in front of a live, studio audience. Sadly, someone forgot to cue the laugh track. "The industry" had every intention of making sure you feel the pain, just don't try to get affordable medication for it.


Amber said...

I too was at the Senate hearing surrounding the health care pool. This was my first Senate hearing and I found it very interesting.

First I was surprised at how the members of the committee talked with each other, and passed notes during the testimony. Were they even paying attention? I also found the way the opponents to the bill slyly degraded educators and the bill to be infuriating. One woman who was testifying called the bill and "funny duck" another woman called teachers "naive" about the way that health care works. Some of the testimony wasn't just misleading, it was WRONG. One man told the committee to not allow the government to subsidize educator's health care. That's NOT AT ALL what this bill pertains to do.

It was exciting to be a witness to democracy in action and I look forward to becoming more involved in the whole process. I would encourage others to do the same!

Karen at Community ALC said...

From Amber's post, it appears our lawmaker's suffer from the same reading problems as some of our students. THEY DON'T READ... they assume!

- Karen