This editorial is scheduled to run in our print edition this weekend
Should public school teachers pay premiums toward their health care?
A poll taken anywhere outside of the teachers’ lounge would likely result in an overwhelming vote for “yes.”
Those voting “yes” would not necessarily be anti-teacher or anti-union. They would be voting out of a sense of fairness based on the fact that the vast majority of the taxpayers supplying the money to pay for teachers’ health care premiums have been paying their own premiums for decades. And many other retired taxpayers who are on Medicare are still paying premiums for supplemental coverage.
That makes it hard to justify the steadfast refusal of teachers’ negotiators in the Dallas School District labor standoff to even consider giving up the premium-free health coverage to which teachers are accustomed.
A 2016 report from the non-profit, non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 12 percent of people in employer-provided plans who have single coverage pay no premium. Only 3 percent of those with family plans don’t chip in.
The same study found the total average annual premium for single coverage is $6,251, with workers paying an average of $1,071. The average family premium is $17,545, with workers contributing $4,955.
Teachers at Dallas are balking at a school district proposal that would offer a choice between a plan that would cost teachers $300 per year for single coverage and $840 per year for family coverage and an HMO plan with no premium, but presumably higher out-of-pocket costs.
Most district taxpayers would love to have those options.
This is not to say that teachers don’t have a right to bargain, to seek the best deal possible and, legally, to strike.
It is to say that as long as they refuse to take on more of their own health-care costs, they will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win the sympathy and support of the public at large.