Union protests insurance plan that costs less money and covers more employees

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NEW ORLEANS – Let’s get this straight.

violin-playerThe Jefferson Parish school board has found a way to purchase dental, vision and life insurance for less cost while providing coverage for more employees, and the teachers union is angry about it.

What kind of sense does that make? As it turns out, none whatsoever.

Over the years the Jefferson Parish school board has paid big money to the Jefferson Federation of Teachers’ Health and Welfare Fund, and the union has used the money to purchase dental, vision and life insurance for teachers. The annual cost to the district in recent years has been about $1.7 million, according to Nola.com.

But everything changed with the passage of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The school district will soon be required “to expand this coverage to include all employees, including those who work as few as 20 hours a week,” the news report said.

That prompted board members to order an outside analysis of insurance costs. The results convinced them they could save money by purchasing coverage for employees on their own, without union involvement.

The board recently purchased insurance from several different carriers, at a cost of $24.38 per employee, compared to the $25 per employee previously paid into the union’s Health and Welfare Fund. The district expects to save about $68,000 per year while providing coverage for more employees, the news report said.

How did union officials react?

As the news report put it, “Union President Meladie Munch said the union is pleased that the new insurance will cover some part-time employees. Formerly (under the union ‘s system) they were not given vision, dental and life insurance coverage. The Health and Welfare Fund only covered teachers, who make up about half of the approximately 6,000 school system employees.

“But Munch said the board and administration are not cooperating with the union.” Or as the story described the disagreement in another section, “union members protested what they described as another effort by the board to reduce the federation’s influence.”

So the union’s influence, which was presumably more potent through the Health and Welfare Fund, is suffering due to the new insurance system. Maybe that’s because the union no longer gets to play the role of sugar daddy, handing out the insurance goodies to all the grateful teachers.

That poor union. Can we have a violin solo to mark this tragic occasion?

by Steve Gunn at EAGnews.org

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