In 2005, a report commissioned by the Michigan Legislative Council and authored by the Hay Group determined that a state-run health insurance pool could save as much as $422 million annually by the 2009-2010 school year. In response to the Hay study, several proposals have been put forward to assist school districts in the procurement of benefits, such as one central pool for all state employees, including educators.
The upside to such a plan is obvious: School boards that, on their own, lack the desire, courage, strength or ability to solve the problem of economically providing health care benefits would benefit from not having to negotiate such issues.
But there are downsides as well. MESSA, for example, contends that the savings are overstated, due to the Hay Group’s underestimating necessary reserves. Another difficulty inherent in state-based solutions is that they undermine local control. A one-size-fits-all state plan cancels the flexibility, concern for local needs and competition that prevail when more than 500 school districts confront an issue on their own. Moreover, the additional cost associated with government bureaucracy should never be discounted.
Connie Gillette: "The Legislature was going in the right direction with trying to develop a state insurance plan and making it mandatory that school employees are considered state employees for purposes of insurance. I believe the bargaining of health insurance must be taken off the plates of local districts. It is the biggest issue causing bargaining difficulties, because of the MEA’s connection to MESSA and the financial gain as a result of this relationship."