Answers to actual questions from MEA members
On July 15, 2009, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon proposed a statewide health plan for Michigan public employees. We’ve compiled common questions from MEA members so far – and provided answers.
Check back regularly for updates. If you have a question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it at www.mea.org/facebook.
Which public employees would be covered in the state-run health plan? Does it include legislators?
The plan is currently detailed only in a white paper by Rep. Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township. However, based on that paper and comments by Dillon to reporters, it appears that all state employees—including legislators, as well as county and local government employees, and public school and university employees—would be covered.
Why should we give up a health care program we know and value without knowing what we’d get instead?
When your local association negotiates a health care plan with your employer, you have some say in the specific benefits you receive. What public school employees in one school district may want or need in a health plan may not be what the employees of a neighboring district want in their plan. Switching to a state-run plan raises many questions, including: Who decides what’s in the plan? Whenever the Legislature wants or needs to cut costs, you can be sure that public employees will pay higher co-pays and receive lower coverage. At this point, Dillon’s proposal is too vague to determine how the state would save hundreds of millions of dollars without cutting benefits or increasing costs of health insurance for public employees.
If we are put into a state plan and then find we don’t like it, could we return to what we had?
Specifically, how much money would this proposal save per employee?
Dillon has not provided specifics. However, in order to get the savings Dillon promises, benefits may have to be cut by as much as half for 400,000 employees and their families.
When do insurance companies get held accountable for costs and consider scaling back their profits?
Dillon’s proposal does not address these issues.
Wouldn’t it help to take health care off the bargaining table so unions can focus on issues near and dear to teachers and other school employees, including small class sizes, working conditions, student supplies or other matters?
Local associations can do this now. Simply tell the administration to give your members any health insurance plan it wishes – and then see what you receive. Health care bargaining, as difficult as it is, ensures that members have a say in their coverage. MEA-member surveys consistently rank quality health care as a top bargaining issue. And, having access to good health care keeps school employees healthy and on the job, doing what they love to do – educate students.
What is the link between MEA and MESSA?
MEA members founded MESSA in 1960 as a nonprofit to promote cost-effective health insurance and other programs for MEA members. MESSA and MEA operate independently and they’re each required by law to file detailed reports with state and federal regulators about financial and business operations.
Is MEA’s opposition to this proposal really about MEA defending MESSA because they’re related?
There’s no doubt that MESSA provides excellent member service, or that many MEA members value MESSA health insurance. However, not all MEA members have MESSA health plans. Dillon’s proposal would affect all public school employees, whether they have MESSA or not. It would also impact county and local government employees who do not have MESSA. MEA believes that the collective bargaining rights of all public employees are important – history proves that bargaining good working conditions for teachers and other school employees results in better learning environments for students.
When you say that Dillon’s proposal is “anti-school employee,” what does that really mean?
This proposal would take away some of the hard-fought bargaining rights of public school workers. It would greatly increase the power of school boards at the expense of school employees. Some worry that if a state-run health plan is implemented, a statewide salary schedule would be next.
How can the MEA oppose a state-run health care plan while the NEA supports President Obama’s efforts to do the same thing in the country?
While Dillon’s proposal would take away collective bargaining rights and health insurance for thousands of Michigan taxpayers who work in public education, the president wants to control the cost of health care and expand access to all Americans. Dillon’s proposal doesn’t do either – in fact, he wants to cut health coverage for half a million Michigan workers and their families. Obama has always wanted to provide a public option for health care – not take away health care from any employees who already have it.
Why shouldn’t school employees have to compromise when the rest of Michigan is suffering?
Public school employees have compromised, saving schools and the state millions. They’ve accepted different health plans, increased out-of-pocket costs, and wage freezes (and even cuts) to keep good coverage. In the past three years alone, those changes saved the state almost $1 billion. It’s important that all Michigan residents have access to decent health care – for public school employees, staying healthy means they can report for work every day, whether it’s driving the bus, cooking and serving lunch, or teaching in the classroom.
Is it time to withhold campaign contributions from Democrats?
MEA dues are not used for contributions to Democrats or Republicans.
MEA members like you help decide how MEA-PAC, a political action committee, distributes funds that it raises with voluntary donations. As for your personal contributions, many Democrats oppose Speaker Dillon’s proposal. The only way to find out where your legislators stand is to contact them about this proposal [link to contact page].
August 4, 2009 11:51 AM