House panel considers health insurance cap

A state House committee is considering legislation to cap the amount public employers, including school districts, pay for employee health care.

The House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee took testimony today on House Bill 4572 to cap district insurance costs at $13,000 for a family policy. The committee is also considering Senate Bill 7 and Senate Joint Resolution C, which the Senate approved last week, to require employees to pay at least 20 percent of the cost of health insurance.

MEA opposes these bills because local school districts (or college or university boards) should have the power to decide insurance matters through collective bargaining. A one-size-fits-all approach is inappropriate.

In testimony today, superintendents from Farwell, Olivet, and Athens voiced support for state control of health care costs, though they also identified some problems, especially with Senate Bill 7.

Olivet Superintendent David Campbell criticized Senate Bill 7, saying that it was complicated and had the potential to drive employee costs well above 20 percent.

Said Athens Superintendent Rich Franklin: “You can give us more money or you can give us the tools that we need.”

Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, questioned whether House Bill 4572 would trigger a lawsuit against the state. Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, sponsor of House Bill 4572, said “hopefully not.”

Added Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, committee chair: “It may end up in court, but we still make the decisions that are right and people can take things to court for any reason.”

Under House Bill 4572, public employers could pay no more than $5,000 for individual coverage and $10,000 for two-person coverage.

Asked why the Senate’s 80-20 proposal permitted an opt-out for local municipalities but not school districts, community colleges, or universities, the bill’s sponsor said schools wasted the opportunity to cut costs while other local units of government have not. Rep. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, also suggested that voters could more easily hold municipal officials accountable at the ballot box.

“I’m being the bad guy and I’m OK with that,” Jansen said.

Brown replied: “Everybody has had this opportunity,” and she rejected Jansen’s election angle.

The committee will meet again Thursday to take additional testimony on the bills. Contact your state representative to ask him/her to carefully review these bills and to oppose this power grab!