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Health-Care Benefits


Q. How much do health-care benefits for school employees add to the cost of education?


A significant amount. According to the Association of School Business Officials International, health insurance costs $900 per pupil per year. That's nearly 10% of the average spending per pupil per year reported by the group, $9,400.


Two out of three of those surveyed by the 6,000-member group reported that school district employee health insurance costs had negatively affected the ability of school districts to spend money on academics.


At the same time that tax revenues are becoming tighter because of a flat economy overall, health-care costs are increasing sharply. It's a tight squeeze. Districts can try to negotiate better rates for fixed costs, but it's tough. And school boards are looking more and more toward driving at least some of the costs back onto the responsibility of the school staff instead of taxpayers.


Health-care costs may increase as much as 8%-10% or more per year, which most everyone can understand is crippling on a district's budget. Meanwhile, teachers for the most part have much more favorable health-care plans than comparable workers in other fields. So there's plenty of opportunity for negotiation to induce them to share more of the costs.


Teachers are being asked to take on more of their health costs in union negotiations, which in many cases would offset the salary increases that are being proposed. Still, the new requirements are usually said to be only temporary, not permanent.


Until recently, some teachers have referred to their health insurance as ''free'' because they weren't required to pay for coverage. Government and business officials are often shocked by how liberal past coverages have been.


The amounts are modest compared to most private-sector plans. Typically, employees are being asked to contribute 5 percent to 10 percent of their premiums and to help pay, often for the first time, for office visits and prescription drugs, considered more in line with other employers.



Homework: See the website of the Association of School Business Officials International.


By Susan Darst Williams Finance & Taxation 08 2008


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