Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Public Employees and Health Care Costs in PA

There is a lot of discussion today about the benefits public employees receive. Take a note of this from Capitol Ideas:

The chamber has also adopted internal operating changes – which have yet to take effect – that require lawmakers to contribute 1 percent of their salaries toward their healthcare. The Senate has had the same policy since 2006. The House changes take effect on July 1.

That's the Pennsylvania State Senate and State House of Representatives he's talking about. Yep, they pay 1% of their salary for health care. State legislators receive $78,314.66/year during legislative sessions. There are no educational requirements and the salary is the same regardless of how many years a legislator has been in office. The legislature is in session part of the year, though many legislators meet with constituents and lobbyists on days the legislature is not in session. Some have outside jobs as well.

Teachers in Pennsylvania are required to have a college degree. According to the Teacher World:
Your Pennsylvania teacher salary will also vary according to a number of factors, including how much experience you have, your level of education, and the grade level you teach. The average annual salary for preschool teachers is $25,610, while the average salary for middle school teachers is $57,000.** The average Pennsylvania teacher salary in secondary school is $55,150. However, at the entry level, secondary school teachers make an average of $37,950, while those in the 90th wage percentile may make over $80,000.***

Finding out how much teachers pay for health insurance is tricky. I found a couple of sources that say teachers pay $25.00 per week for a basic plan. That would be $100 per month. If that is pro-rated for the school year (and the sources I found didn't say if they paid in over 9, 10, or 12 months), let's say 9 months to take the most conservative view, that is $900, that is about 2% of their salary, roughly twice what legislators pay. Plus, teachers have to pay more for better coverage:
However, even the teachers share of the most expensive plan, called "Personal Choice 5" — which costs a teacher $3,328 a year out of his or her paycheck — is still below the national average of $3,823 for a PPO plan, according to Dove's figures. (from "Teacher talks hinge on cost of health care," By Evan Brandt, Local News (Chester County), March 6, 2011)

The current Philadelphia School District's contract is online as a pdf. Medical coverage is on pages 39 and 40 of the contract (p. 53 and 54 of the pdf). For the first few years of hire, when salaries are at their lowest, teachers don't pay for health care but then pay either 3% or 5% of the cost of their health insurance. I'm not a lawyer so may not be reading this correctly. Readers are encouraged to review the contract for themselves.

Any way you slice it, legislators, public employees who, once in office seldom lose it, are paid more in salary and less for health care than teachers. So why is the focus on what teachers earn / pay and not what state legislators earn / pay?

Throwing in a non-Pennsylvania factoid, the head of Massachusetts Blue Cross / Blue Shield, a non-profit health care organization, was paid $11 million when he left his job:
Last week, the Boston-based insurer disclosed that it agreed to give Killingsworth, who resigned last March, more than $11 million in salary, retirement, and severance payments. Public outrage was magnified by the fees Blue Cross pays to its 18 directors, most of whom are prominent business, labor, and education leaders. Those payments ranged from $11,415 to $89,886 last year. (Source: "Insurer's board suspends own pay," By Robert Weisman, Boston Globe 3/09/2011

I find that maddening.


adamg said...

FTR, federal employees pay roughly a 25% share of their premium costs for health care (HMO and FFS) provided through FEHB. That cost is deducted from taxable income for current employees, but it is not for retirees.

AboveAvgJane said...

Translation: For the record, federal employees pay roughly a 25% share of their premium costs (Health Maintenance Organization and for-fee-service) provided through Federal Employee Health Benefits.

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