Alane Enderle has canceled her dental and vision insurance, decreased her retirement contributions and increased her tutoring hours to make sure she brings home as much money working as a reading coach this year as she did last year.
Trevor Johnson is concerned about paying for his oldest son’s car insurance once he gets his license. Two of the teacher’s three children also play soccer, about an $800 expense. He’s worried he won’t be able to make ends meet.
Steve Metallo looked at removing his wife from his teacher’s insurance policy, having her covered instead through a plan on the federal government’s marketplace.
Teachers and employees in the Manatee County School District are scrambling after a major increase in the health insurance premiums for those with spouses or family plans was slipped into the tentative agreements negotiated between the district and the unions.
“It was buried on page 21 (of the tentative agreement). You had to really go through it,” said Johnson, a physical education teacher at Blackburn Elementary School. “You really had to be paying attention to know what’s going on.”
Page 2 of the tentative agreement notes that premiums will go up for some employees, district officials said, but it does not include the size of the increases.
“It was very forthcoming. It did show me there are some current concerns here with communication,” said Ron Ciranna, the district’s new deputy superintendent of operations.
Manatee County School District officials and its two unions announced the tentative contract agreement earlier this month, including raises for teachers, paraprofessionals and other support employees.
So when teachers got copies of the tentative agreement to review, many were shocked at the rate the health insurance premiums will be increasing. In some cases, the premium increase will more than wipe out the salary increase.
“We’re going backward, we’re not moving forward,” said Enderle, a 47-year-old who covers herself and her husband through the district’s insurance.
For employees who elect to cover their spouses or their families through the district’s insurance, the monthly premium increase will hit between $185 and $296 a month.
“What was buried in there was a Trojan horse pay cut,” said Metallo, a 52-year-old social studies teacher at Manatee High School. “In essence, many of us are voting to take a pay cut.”
Metallo elects the district’s silver-level family plan. His premium will be $700 a month if the current tentative agreement passes, a $284 a month increase from last year.
That’s the same for fellow social studies teacher Bryan Kincannon, a 43-year-old teacher at the school. Kincannon’s wife, who is also a teacher, and his son are covered under the family plan.
Only those of us who are married and have spouses are being punished for this.
Don Falls, Manatee High School teacher
While acknowledging that avoiding a premium increase may have been impossible, Kincannon feels teachers across the district are being deceived, as the information about the increase wasn’t included in any type of summary sheet or when it was first announced the district and the union had reached an agreement.
“I guess it is what it is is, but no one said anything to anybody,” he said. “It’s a shame. The point is you need to let people know.”
Members who are covered as individuals or have a child on the plan will not see a change in their premiums, contributing between $32 a month and $368 a month, depending on their plan.
Those who are covered with children on the plan will see a decrease, somewhere between $90 and $158, depending on which plan they select. Those with children will contribute between $160 and $368 a month, depending on their plan.
The premium changes most directly affect employees who have spouses on their plans. Employees contribute between $388 and $822 a month for spouse or family plans, with the increase ranging from $185 a month to $296 a month.
The school board contributes money to subsidize the cost of the premiums. The board contributes between $493 and $1,061 per employee a month for the different plans offered.
Increasing premiums for those electing coverage with spouses was an attempt to more equitably share the cost, according to district officials.
“We were trying to make it more equitable, because the spouses in large cost the district more money than employees,” Ciranna said.
According to the district, if an employee costs the health insurance plan $1, a spouse costs the district $1.25 and children cost less than $1.
Overall, the district insurance covers approximately 9,700 people, with only 4,412 being employees of the district. Individually insured employees count for 52 percent of the plans chosen, 25 percent of employees covered selected a family plan, 14 percent of employees cover themselves and their spouses, and 9 percent cover themselves and a child or children.
Teachers and other school staff will be asked to ratify the tentative agreement during this week’s voting, starting Monday. The deal isn’t finalized until both the union ratifies it and the school board approves it. If approved, salary raises are retroactive to July 1, the start of the fiscal year. The new premium rates would start in January 2017 and the premiums are paid a month ahead.
This is the fourth year in a row the district has given teachers a raise, although union officials say the raises haven’t covered the pay cuts teachers agreed to during the worst of the recession. For at least the past two years, the district has been able to put enough money toward the health insurance fund to cover the entire cost of the increased premiums and give raises.
Union head Pat Barber said she believes the tentative agreement given to the teachers is the best that could be negotiated this year with the district.
“The job of the union is to negotiate the very best package of salaries, benefits and working conditions that we can and that is what happened at the table,” she said. Those on the district side of the bargaining table, she noted, had initially advocated for higher premiums and a lower salary increase.
Teachers still aren’t happy with the agreement. As a union member since he began working, Don Falls, another Manatee High social studies teacher, said the union is supposed to avoid such drastic insurance increases.
“I support the principles which the union stands by, which makes this more upsetting to me that the union signed off on such a monstrous increase in insurance,” he said.
Falls is another employee on the silver family plan. The other night, Falls began playing around with the marketplace to see if he could find a plan that would work for his family outside the district insurance, but he called those plans “catastrophic.”
“If indeed they need to raise health insurance costs, then they need to raise them across the board. Only those of us who are married and have spouses are being punished for this. I just think the whole thing is just unfair,” he said.
Johnson, the PE teacher at Blackburn, agrees. Those with families likely spend more money than those without families and the tentative agreement targets those families more, he said.
“Morale for teachers is already not very good. That’s just another thing to further weaken the morale,” he said. Johnson, who is not a union member, said he plans to vote “no” on the agreement ratification.
Enderle, the Prine reading coach, had been expecting a premium increase, just not so much.
“An increase would have been OK but not to the degree they are taking it to,” she said.
Enderle hasn’t been a union member for the past two years or so, because she hasn’t seen the benefit. She’ll be voting “no” on the ratification question.
Raising the rates
Health insurance premiums won’t go up for those on employee-only plans or for those on employee and children plans. But rates will rise for those who have plans with spouses or with family plans. Below is a table laying out the monthly premium changes for those employees.
Employee plus child
Employee plus children
Employee plus spouse
Employee plus family