Administration Responds To Teacher Union’s Call For Statewide Health Insurance
The Scott Administration is bristling at a suggestion made earlier this week by Vermont’s largest union that the state implement a single statewide health insurance contract for all public school employees (see outline of proposal below). A year ago, Governor Phil Scott advocated for a statewide teacher health insurance plan to save money and equalize benefits. The teachers’ union rebuffed such a plan and Democratic leadership opposed it. The standoff led to a budget veto and ultimately a compromise that did not include a statewide plan. Today Susanne Young, Secretary of Administration, issued the following statement on the Vermont NEA’s proposal to move to a statewide health benefit.
Young: “Last year, the Governor advocated for a statewide health benefit for school employees, which would have met the principles highlighted in the Vermont NEA’s press release by offering comprehensive, affordable and equitable health care benefits for employees while achieving tens of millions in savings for taxpayers and school employees alike.
In this screen shot, Governor Scott speaks during the budget signing ceremony at the State House June 28, 2017, after a compromise was reached following his veto. Susanne Young is to his far right. Click for video.
“The ‘broken public school employee health insurance system’ referenced by the Vermont NEA is the direct result of the fragmented and widely disparate cost-sharing arrangements that would have been addressed by a uniform benefit as proposed by the Governor last session and by the Vermont Educational Health Benefit Commission in its December 2018 report to the Legislature. Regrettably, the Vermont NEA opposed every effort to make progress, yet now, admits that a standard statewide benefit that is comprehensive, affordable, and equitable has real benefits for their members.
“The Governor’s proposal did not come to fruition, in part, because of pointed pushback by the Vermont NEA and Democratic lawmakers last year over the sanctity of collective bargaining between employees and employers – a construct the Vermont NEA apparently no longer feels is crucial.
“Today, there is an approximate $40 million gap between education fund revenues and expenses; some of which could have been mitigated through the policies brought forward by the Governor last year.
“It’s disappointing for the union to come to the table a year later, in the wake of mounting fiscal pressure on school employees’ health benefits, after eroding the opportunity to chart a course that would balance strong benefits for employees with the public cost to taxpayers.
“Furthermore, it’s telling that the proposal from the union comes on the heels of a 16.8 percent rate increase for the school employees’ insurance group and clear evidence that this rate increase is the direct result of local settlements above and beyond the benefit level outlined as a compromise in the 2017 appropriations bill.
“Nonetheless, the Governor is open to working with the Vermont NEA on a path forward. But given the Vermont NEA proposal contains few details, and it is critical we address this issue this legislative session, we’d hope the Vermont NEA will demonstrate their willingness to work together by supporting the current proposal to put the cost-sharing arrangements recommended in the 2017 budget for the current VEHI plans into statute for all school employee contracts opening next summer until this commission can arrive at a consensus path forward.