Apr. 11—Retirement is comfortable for
Creel, 62, taught in the
And he doesn’t have to worry about health insurance.
That’s paid for in full thanks to the benefits he earned in his teaching career.
It’s a perk that gives him peace of mind. Creel said he wouldn’t be afford to pay for his health insurance these days, “especially as we get hit with inflation,” he said.
The security he and other
The main sticking point in contentious negotiations centered on the district’s effort to cut its spending on an especially expensive health insurance plan offered to teachers. The district spends about
The district originally wanted to shift employees to a different Kaiser plan that is still fully covered by the district but costs about
“Our health benefits structure is not sustainable because we offer very costly health benefit plans to our employees,” District Superintendent
The deal the district ultimately struck to end the strike leaves the
The teachers union’s members ratified the deal, and the school board is expected to vote on the agreement at a future school board meeting.
Multiple state and county audits have cited health care spending as a primary source of financial distress in the
Over time, the health-related expenses include a
The district’s proposal to cut spending on the
For Creel, the retired teacher, the idea of paying a fraction of his health care plan, especially while the cost of living continues to rise, scares him.
“I couldn’t afford the difference, and I would have to make a switch,” he said.
Other districts and teachers make different calculations, accepting less lucrative benefit plans while obtaining higher wages for educators.
Average teacher wages in
Teachers in the
That suits some
But making a change would not be easy in
“Once you have formed a relationship, you don’t want to change,” Creel said.
High teacher pays in
The higher pay had a secondary benefit: It raised teachers’ lifetime earnings in pensions. Tea
Higher pay at the end of a teacher’s career means more money in a pension, for life.
“The thinking was a person who didn’t need a full family plan or didn’t need a plan at all could then capture the value of the health care dollars on the salary schedule and then that of course benefited the people in retirement who could purchase the more expensive plan, and it benefited everyone in retirement because your STRS calculation was based on your salary,” she said.
In retirement, Gowans, 66, has a Medicare plan she purchases through the
“In retrospect, it could be argued we let health care slip away for people who needed the family-oriented plan,” she said, acknowledging the higher costs
In some ways, the
“There were a lot of younger teachers, who had families and found it very expensive, Sparkman said. “In my perspective there was another way of dealing with that.”
Sparkman said she is happy with her health care,
Were plans historically designed for married women?
About three quarters of teachers in the
His aunt, an educator in
Why workers would choose benefits over pay
Gould spent decades analyzing health care policies and advising teacher unions and school districts on health care insurance provisions of contracts.
In his experience researching what happens at the bargaining tables and behind the scenes, several teachers unions fought for full benefits amid concerns that health insurance rates would continue to climb.
Medical costs have been rising steadily in at least the last two decades.
“Quite often districts would rely on outside experts and consultants, and those consultants would say that health insurance costs would rise,” Gould said.
Projected 3% jumps would turn out to be double digit increases for some companies, Gould said. With little protection from so-called arbitrary increases in health care, Gould said there is no telling how many employees could end up paying.
“What we found was employers would come with an inflated number, and then we experience an increase to costs,” Gould said. “But the flu never hits, women don’t have children, surgeries won’t be conducted as often as they were projected to be. And the employer tops off what employees paid up front, and they don’t lower the cost the following year.”
Teachers should choose a package like
Two companies offer health plans for teachers in the
About 940 certified staff members are enrolled in
New hires at
Not everyone wants Kaiser
Sparks was diagnosed with breast cancer five and a half years ago. She called the medical treatment at
Sparks doesn’t want to make the switch to Kaiser. Relatives who receive medical treatment at Kaiser simply don’t have the same access to care, she said.
“I wouldn’t have access to the same team,” she said. “I would probably retire and find another job.”
“If new hires want to be put on a Kaiser plan, and they accept that, that’s their choice,” Sparks said. “It works for them, but it doesn’t work for me.”
Depending on a family’s needs, a family’s coverage could be in the thousands of dollars.
“Mental health illnesses, special needs or even allergies could cost you thousands,” Gould said. “If you don’t have good health insurance, that could be devastating to families.”
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