Teachers opt to leave MESSA, get pay hike

GAYLORD - Teachers in Gaylord Community Schools have voted to replace the Michigan Education Special Services Association with AmeraPlan as a third-party insurance administrator, saving the district about 25 percent on health care costs, the Gaylord Herald Times reported.

The switch is part of a new, three-year contract that also provides teachers a 3 percent annual pay raise, according to the Herald Times.

"This is a precedent-setting contract," school board member Bill O'Neill said, adding that the move will save the district $500,000 to $1 million annually, the Herald Times reported. "We have to give credit to the (GEA) negotiating team."

Superintendent Cheryl Wojtas said the Gaylord Education Association did its own investigation into insurance costs. She told the Herald Times that the new plan is similar to the Blue Cross Blue Shield package that teachers previously received. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association that outsources insurance underwriting to Blue Cross, and then resells those plans to a majority of Michigan conventional public school districts.

"There were mutually productive negotiations without having to bring in attorneys from the outside. It was definitely a collaborative effort," Wojtas told the Herald Times, noting that the district also has signed a new contract with transportation employees.

The Gaylord Herald Times, "Gaylord teachers ratify 3-year pact," Nov. 14, 2008

Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed, but not resolved," Sept. 16, 2008