Superintendent: State should cap health costs

LANSING, Mich. - Rather than placing all public employees in a single health care pool, a west Michigan school superintendent suggests the state save money by capping the amount governmental units can pay for health care plans, or by requiring employees to pay a percent of their health insurance premium, according to a report in The Grand Rapids Press.

Testifying before a committee of the state House of Representatives, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler said that under his plan, legislators would set the percentage required of employees, but not choose the actual plan, The Press reported. Teachers and other workers could still bargain for the health plan of their choice, but would have to pay more out of pocket for more costly plans.

Alternatively, Shibler testified, the state could cap the amount schools or other public entities are required to pay for health plans and require employees to pay the remainder, according to The Press. The caps and percentages could be adjusted for inflation each year.

Shibler said his plan would not require the state to set up its own public employee health pool, an idea proposed by House Speaker Andy Dillon earlier this year, which Dillon said could save up to $900 million.

"The problem with Speaker Dillon's plan is that there's no co-pay and no cost-containment for health insurance," he said, according to The Press. "And it would establish a new health care bureaucracy."

Some public school districts already have negotiated contracts requiring teachers to pay part of their health insurance premium. Grand Rapids Public Schools teachers now pay $900 annually, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Rockford Superintendent pushes alternative to Speaker Dillon's plan to pool insurance for state employees," Oct. 29, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Splitting the health insurance bill," Aug. 19, 2009