PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Chances are you pay more than a one percent co-pay for yourhealth insurance. That is, unless you're a teacher in one RhodeIsland town.
According to state officials, health insurance for publiceducation workers costs taxpayers $225 million per year. To shavethis price tag, the governor wants teachers to pay a 25 percentco-share across the board.
However, the Target 12 Investigators found every Rhode Islandcommunity currently falls short of that goal.
Those who work in the private sector may be surprised to learnhow low co-shares are for many teachers. Not one of them reachesthe governor's 25 percent co-pay proposal, and the vast majorityaren't even close.
Teacher contract battles have reached the boiling point in somecommunities. Next to salaries, the 800 pound gorilla in thebargaining room is health insurance co-shares.
With the cost of health care rising every year, schoolcommittees want to teachers to chip in more. However, GovernorDonald Carcieri has a different plan - take it off the tableentirely.
His plan would create a statewide unified health care contractfor teachers, requiring them to pay 25 percent of their health carepremium. State number crunchers said it could save taxpayers nearly$17 million a year.
"The time at the negotiating table could be shortened andeveryone can be focused on teaching and learning," said David Abbotof the Rhode Island Department of Education.
Abbot said he also feels something has to give.
"We just can't afford the level of benefits and services thatwe've had," he added.
A Target 12 analysis of teacher contracts shows current dealsare no where near the governor's proposal. In fact, 24 out of 36school districts have co-pays of 10 percent or less.
The most generous:
-Narragansett teachers pay only one percent of their salariestoward healthcare.
-Warwick teachers pay a flat $572 a year.
-South Kingstown teachers pay between three percent and sixpercent, depending on salary.
-The state's largest district, Providence, has an annual rate of$1,400 per family plan and $500 for individual plans.
Only four school districts require teachers to pay 20 percent;Barrington, Chariho, Glocester and East Providence.
The East Providence teachers' union is fighting the currentcontract in court. Under the old agreement, Townie teachers didn'thave to pay any share if they stayed "in-network."
"Unfortunately, [the governor] used the budget crisis as anopportunity to reduce teacher rights and that’s something weabsolutely oppose," said James Parisi of the Rhode IslandFederation of Teachers.
Parisi also said the governor's plan would hurt teachers whonegotiated lower salaries in exchange for lower co-shares.
"I think each negotiation has a history that needs to berecognized and is not recognized with the governor's proposal," hesaid.
That was the case in Central Falls, a state-run school districtthat just negotiated a new contract. Even the state, though, fellfar short of the 25 percent co-share deal trumpeted by thegovernor.
When asked how the state can demand a 25 percent co-pay when itcan’t even get it in Central Falls, Abbott responded,"Central Falls, like any district, you have to look at that lastnegotiation and how much movement there was."
Abbott said the latest contract more than doubles the teachersco-pay from the previous deal; nine percent now, and 15 percentthree years down the road.
Timothy Duffy of the Rhode Island Association of SchoolCommittees said, "Obviously anything that saves local districtsmoney is something that we're interested in."
Duffy also said Central Falls is an example of just howdifficult a fight it will be to achieve a 25 percent co-share.
"I kind of think that we probably should mirror what the statedoes. I think that there probably should be a sliding scale basedon income," Duffy said.
The governor's plan would also mean teachers would all have thesame health insurance provider. Right now, it varies by district.According to the Department of Education, buying-in-bulk would bepart of the savings.
If you want to compare your school district to others, theTarget 12 Investigators have combed through all the data. Fromsalaries to sabbaticals, you can find the complete numbersbreak-down by clickinghere.
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