BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Harper Creek Community Schools is now the policyholder of the district’s health insurance plan for teachers, a move that won’t change benefits but that educators are calling a power grab, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

The school board approved the change at a recent meeting. Previously, the Michigan Education Special Services Association was the policyholder of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan plan that Harper Creek provides to teachers, the Enquirer reported. MESSA is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.

Becoming its own policyholder means the district can negotiate directly with Blue Cross Blue Shield on pricing, attorney Ray Davis told the Enquirer. He said MESSA likely will not agree to continue to administer benefits, the Enquirer reported. Davis is with Lansing-based Thrun Law Firm and is handling the district’s contract negotiations with the Harper Creek Education Association.

Davis told the Enquirer that the switch does not allow the district to make unilateral changes in teachers’ coverage or the amount they pay, since both of those must be settled through negotiations.

Tara Wilbur, the MEA representative for Harper Creek teachers, declined to comment to the Enquirer in a phone interview, but said in an e-mailed statement, "It's a matter of power and the board wants full control and are willing to deny our rights to get it."

Battle Creek Enquirer, “Harper Creek schools take over teachers' health insurance,” March 17, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School Databases, “Master Agreement between the Harper Creek Board of Education and the Harper Creek Education Association, MEA-NEA