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School districts and health care

March 14, 2011 - Jim Anderson
Under Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining law for public employees, school boards will no longer have to negotiate health care coverage.

That will have a huge impact on WEA Trust, which now insures employees in about two-thirds of Wisconsin’s school districts. WEA Trust is a nonprofit company founded 40 years ago by the state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Critics view WEA Trust as a high-cost insurer that has faced too little competition. With collective bargaining gone, many school districts will switch to cheaper options, they predict.

WEA Trust, however, has proven itself capable and popular. In 2010, the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems gave WEA Trust the highest health plan rating in the state for a third straight year.

According to Steve Lyons, director of public affairs for WEA Trust, the insurer returns 93 cents out of every health care premium dollar back to districts in health care coverage. By comparison, under the nation’s new health care law, insurers are required to spend no less than 80 percent of premium revenues on medical care.

If WEA Trust is expensive, one reason may be that it actually covers the claims that are filed.

Districts may, indeed, find cheaper coverage that appears comparable. But a price may also be borne elsewhere — either in denied coverage or in discounted payments to health care providers.



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