One of the prominent arguments for gutting Iowa’s collective bargaining law for public employees is that there will be great savings to the local and state taxpayer by taking health insurance bargaining out of negotiations.  I would like to quickly look into that argument using my own experiences as a public school teacher and member of a collective bargaining unit.

I am a career public school teacher.  I’ve taught in four Iowa school districts and have always had excellent health insurance coverage.  In all four districts my health insurance coverage has been a major part of my compensation package and as a single subscriber I paid out the same amount in co-pays and premiums as my colleagues with spouses and children.  Now that I am blessed to have a family the same holds true.

In the last fiscal year just over 11% of my total compensation was paid out for health insurance premiums.  So it stands to reason that at anywhere from 1-11% of my total compensation could be cut in next years compensation.  That means less money for me to spend on everything from groceries to home improvement.  Money that strengthens Iowa’s economy.  Multiply that by 119,000 public employees and you get a pretty big drag on the overall state economy.

In addition to higher premiums changes under a new health insurance plan will likely be less coverage, higher co-pays, increased lifetime and yearly limits.  Again the money saved under a new plan will be offset by less buying power for state employees.  And in the long run we will have a public employee labor force that is less healthy, less productive and more expensive.

One of the things that keeps me on the job is regular chiropractic care.  In my job I move a lot and wave my arms around a lot (I’m a band director).  If I don’t regularly see my chiropractor I am in pain that eventually will lead to a very grouchy teacher, limit my ability to exercise and eventually lead to time off the job.  It is preventative care that many health plans either do not cover or severely limit.

My local collective bargaining unit bargained for better chiropractic coverage for years before we finally got it.  It was the many requests from members that persuaded this coverage.  Now aside from a bunch of teachers being healthier, there are a bunch of local chiropractors who are making more money.  Another positive ripple effect of our insurance benefit.

Finally lets take the effect of my insurance coverage on my wife’s employer.  She’s worked for both a big corporation and a small business while I’ve been covered by a collectively bargained policy.  In both cases her employer was 100% off the hook for covering both my wife and our family.  We must make the assumption that there will be a race to the bottom in health care coverage under any new health plan for public employees because there will be no collective bargaining to stop it.  We will see rush of families to private employers health plans which will end up costing them more.

The so-called luxury of public employee health insurance doesn’t look so exclusive when you look at the details, does it?