Monday, May 24, 2010

No Need for Rush to Change Health Care

The Joint Finance Committee continues on with budget mark up. They have not yet taken up education. DSEA believes that stipends for National Board Certification and Clusters should be restored, particularly in light of Race To The Top and the push for alternative compensation. Shouldn't we honor our existing alternative compensation promises before starting more programs of dubious funding potential? Also, we remain concerned about math and reading specialists. Although many of these teachers have been given other positions, some are among the approximately 380 teachers threatened with RIF around Delaware. Refunding these positions could alleviate some of the financial pressure on local school districts.

Also, JFC has not addressed the issue of Short Term Disability. I believe there is interest on the committee for restoration of the insurance to the former 20 day elimination period. Last year, the Short Term Disability elimination period was changed to 60 days. In other words, if a serious illness strikes, and educator or state employee must have the means (banked sick days?) to make it 60 days without any compensation, before the insurance is activated providing 75% of salary.
In other news today, the Governor communicated to our members via email about establishing a different tier of health care and pension for new hires. Dealing with the latter first, pension should not even be on the table for change. Our pension plan is well funded and well managed. There is no need for new hires to contribute more money.

Health care on the other hand remains a challenge for everyone. Federal legislators allowed themselves to be scared into doing half a job on health care reform, so health care inflation continues to cause problems for working people. However, the solution is not to sell out future generations of educators. Do you want to work next to someone who can't afford health care for their kids, because you didn't want to fight for them?

That's the scenario we will be facing. Consider, for example, the cheapest family plan under the proposed tier is $322.07 per month employee contribution. A new hire para-professional earns $17,228 per year. Obviously, this individual will not be insuring his/her family. Many educators and other state employees qualify for public assistance such as food stamps. I guess we will be able to add Medicaid to the list.

Keep in mind, that after budget mark up ends, we will only have 13 legislative days left. We are asking the Governor not to attempt to make sweeping changes to complex health and pension plans in a needless rush. There is no compelling reason why the summer and autumn can not be used for calling in stakeholder groups and working toward solutions in health care cost containment. To the degree that changes are needed, legislation can be filed in the next General Assembly.
Finally, if you are a resident of the Christina School District, do not forget that tomorrow is the referendum vote. Polls will be open from 10:00AM to 8:00PM. Christina District desperately needs this operating referendum and the odds are against them. Please make an extra effort to get to the polls.

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