Teachers unions currently have authority to take action on their health plans without the agreement of districts. They may enroll in programs such as the Public Employees Insurance Program unilaterally.
Sponsored by Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), HF371/ SF247* would no longer allow that.
On Feb. 16, the bill was approved 71-58 by the House. It returned to the Senate where it was laid over. A different version passed 34-28 on May 14, 2011.
The bill requires that teachers unions and districts agree to health plan changes before they could become effective. A Senate amendment adopted by the House would also address any possible insurance refunds. Since districts and teachers usually split insurance costs, under this amendment, they would each receive refund money proportionate to the amount they paid.
“I think it makes it a little more fair because the school boards that are paying part of this will now have a say in how this is done,” Hoppe said.
Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph) argued the bill will take autonomy away from teachers, who are already cost-conscious with their insurance.
“What this bill does is take away the freedom and the flexibility of the purchasers and consumers of healthcare to go out and use market forces to their advantage,” Hosch said.
Lawmakers heard similar arguments from the public during a Jan. 31 House Education Finance Committee meeting, when there was lengthy testimony on the bill.
Leaders from both districts and service cooperatives, which help school districts to buy insurance, testified in support of the bill, saying it returns equality to bargaining. Representatives of teachers unions disagreed, saying the bill would negatively impact their options for health coverage.
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