How Milton schools saved a bundle - of your money
Dec. 1, 2010
Bernie Nikolay should be happy. His school district - he's the superintendent in Milton - had a good November. The girls swim team won the state title, a first for Milton girls athletics. And an arbitrator said the district could switch health coverage away from the insurer owned by the teachers union. That'll save the district as much as a million bucks a year.
For a district with a $33 million budget, that's cheery. For the rest of the state, it means a tide may have turned.
It could mean the end to the costly market dominance of WEA Trust, the health insurer owned by the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Just under two-thirds of Wisconsin districts use WEA Trust, a puzzling preference since its coverage is so costly.
Districts that buy WEA Trust plans average $1,665 a month for family premiums, according to their state association, while those choosing other carriers average $1,466. The difference is greatest where taxpayers cover the whole premium.
Milton was paying $48,301 more in premiums for every month that it couldn't switch from WEA Trust to a pair of plans from Madison-based Dean Health and Janesville-based MercyCare that it said were comparable. The district already had switched its administrative staff, said Nikolay, and while the union objected that the new plans would restrict choices, most teachers already used doctors at Dean or MercyCare clinics, Nikolay noted. "That made it less problematic for a lot of our families."
And it saved a bundle for a district saddled with "bleak local economic conditions," as its arbitration case put it. It is losing students and, thus, state aid. The area is losing population. The district needed to control premiums, and the arbitrator agreed.
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