Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Health Insurance Education

The calls and emails I have gotten in the last week from members have been a series of diverse questions about personal circumstances, budgetary bottom lines, fact-checking, and union solidarity. All of the communications have had one thing in common: Members doing their best to immerse themselves in the issue of the best health insurance policy for the best money.

It's been a pleasure listening to, talking to, and emailing everyone and it makes me look forward to our information sessions as well. A few things are very clear to me already:

  • Members are voraciously educating themselves to make the most informed decision possible.
  • Members want high-quality health care.
  • Members want affordable, accessible health care.

All this leads me to believe even more that we were right to put this decision squarely in members' hands. These things are not new. Almost from the day I started I have fielded emails and phone calls, presided over membership meetings and contract discussions, and listened to members at staff meetings and come to the same conclusion.


We want high-quality health care. We hate to see our colleagues denied treatments when a family doctor is over-ruled by a hospital administrator or use crossing their fingers as their deductible plan.

We want it to be affordable for everyone. It kills us to see our brothers and sister in our union and in other unions bringing home 75 cent paychecks or working 3 jobs so they can have health insurance AND an income.

We want it to be accessible. We don't want health care rationed one way or the other. We want sick people to get the attention they need to be well and we want healthy people to get the attention they need to stay that way.

We want to be informed. Time and again members will read about it, study it, question it, and then read it again. We want to make the most educated decisions possible.

The above conclusions have made me realize that we were right to put this decision squarely in the hands of members because we are acting fabulously like the labor union we are. When we are informed we make good decisions. We are the sort of people who care intrinsically about others so we want to make collective decisions for the common good.

Use this blog for any discussions you would like, attend an informational meeting at the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, and return that ballot (being mailed to you on October 20th with instructions) by October 29th at 5 p.m.

5 comments:

Chris said...

mc-
I just want to thank you for pursuing this issue and for your efforts to inform our membership. I attended and would encourage everyone to attend the informational sessions and to make the effort to do the research necessary to make an informed decision. Thanks again for your efforts! cb

susan wilmes said...

I looked over the proposed insurance plan which we will be voting on this month. Frankly, the proposed plan scares the heck out of me. Please review the comparison charts. My husband has the state plan so I am very familiar with the plan. To me, it appears that the PEIP plan does save the district significant funds, however; it does not appear to save us much. Actually, from what I can see, with the loss of benefits, increased co-pays, and added deductibles the higher level state plan ( closest to the distinction plan) will cost us each more through the year.

Under our current plan I was able to go to Mayo for my corneal transplants. Under the PEIP it is highly unlikely that I would have had that option. Dave has not been able to obtain "outside" referrals as the clinic calls them. Options are very limited. Dave is not required to enroll in a state plan as we are. We are both insured through SPPS because his plan (PEIP) is so poor.

For starters the PEIP Plan:
* Has an Annual deductible - rather than none
* Has an increased co-pay prescription cost
* Has a yearly max amount for prescription - rather than none
* Does not cover monthly $20 health club fee - rather than the $20 reduction in membership we have now
* Does not cover adult children - currently children 18-25 can be covered regardless of school enrollment
* Has increased cost of office co-pay
* Has increased deductibles for outpatient and inpatient care
$180 co-pay for inpatient, after deductible - rather than no co-pay
$110 co-pay for out patient, after deductible - rather than $25
* Coverage for out of state college students will be a nightmare for parents-out current plan works well

This is just a brief overview. I really do not understand why the union would recommend this change. Clearly, the district would benefit from the change, I can not see how it would help us. Frankly, I believe that it is a low quality plan in comparison to the distinction plan, which; is the plan a majority of SPPS employees are enrolled in.

stevie-j said...

mc- It is always a good thing when people are given the opportunity to choose. We do not need to agree, but choice leads to conversations and wonderings. Who should be in charge of deciding which company will provide our coverage? How can our members' needs best be met? Is there something else available? Can we really have a say? Members are being given a voice with the up-coming vote. It's nice to be asked once in a while. Thanks for providing options.

jmartin said...

Susan:

Thanks for your comment. I know that this is a difficult issue, but one that has the potential to provide some relief in the pocketbooks of our members. I would like to respectfully disagree with you about a couple of your points.

•The PEIP plan is not intended to save the district (SPPS) anything, but the projection is that it will save SPFT members altogether somewhere next to $3million. That is money that goes to you. (I think that this gets confused when the term "district" is used. In this context, the district is ISD625, St. Paul Public Schools. The SPFT membership works for the "district," but for the sake of this discussion is a separate entity.)

•The copay costs are cheaper across the board, unless you are in the wellness initiative. Then they are pretty comparable.

•The "yearly max amount for prescription" refers to the copay out-of-pocket maximum. Under HP, there is none, so you would continue to pay. Under the PEIP plan, once you reach the max, you no longer pay. I believe that you might have thought that this meant that there was a maximum number of prescriptions you could have. It refers only to your copays.

•The district would not benefit from this change. At best, they are indifferent, other than (I can only assume) the extra paperwork in HR. Please understand, it is only the members that would benefit.

•The "union" is not recommending this change. The leadership of the union is offering this plan as an option for our members who are struggling with high healthcare costs. This is all about providing a service to the members, but if the majority of the members feel that they would be better off under the current plan, that would be great. We just want the membership to make an informed choice.

Some of your other points, like the health club membership perk and 19-25 dependent healthcare are true. This is why it is important that each member sits down with the numbers and looks over his or her own situation. For many, I would suspect that they would end up receiving the same care at some level of savings. For myself, nothing would change in my own healthcare (my clinic is listed as a tier 2) and I would receive about $32 extra a month. But I do not see a specialist. Everyone needs to find out for themselves. I would argue that the potential to save $300 to $1000 a year might be worth some time this weekend.

Thanks for your time.

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