MEA Needs Economic Education

January 3, 2005
Text Size:

It’s intriguing to read of a recent survey (see story on page B3) indicating that about two-thirds of employees are satisfied with their health-care coverage.

That satisfaction appears to arise from employees’ increasingly sophisticated understanding of the health-care cost challenges they and their employers face together. In fact, the survey indicated that most workers have a firm grasp of how significantly health coverage adds to their personal reward packages.

Their understanding probably derives in part from employer education programs and in part from personal experience. For despite all the health litigation horror stories in the dailies and on the tube, health coverage is immediately at hand when American workers need it. Moreover, it’s reassuringly professional care and the outcomes are usually pretty satisfactory.

Beyond that, when one pays a share of one’s group health coverage — as is usually the case with employees nowadays — a tendency arises to look more closely at the value one receives.

And the appreciation of that value sharpens substantially with the arrival of a series of insurance company Explanation of Benefits. By showing the actual four, five-figure and even six-figure costs of tests or operations, these documents put a new perspective on the employees’ admittedly nagging but relatively modest co-pay, deductible and premium share.

Perhaps employees’ deepening understanding of health coverage also arises — in Michigan, at least — from the anticlimactic outcome of last year’s contract negotiations between the UAW and the auto-makers.

Recall that during 2002, with Big Three contract talks in the offing, there was gloomy talk of an impending Mother of all Strikes — with double-digit health care premium inflation being the core issue. Yet the negotiations between the auto-makers and UAW proceeded smoothly.

Wanting to drive neither more market share nor auto worker jobs to Asia, auto workers unions accommodated the auto makers on many issues, including health-care coverage. UAW members now pay larger deductibles, larger co-pays and a larger fraction of health care premiums: Trade-offs infinitely preferable to losing jobs.

But employee comprehension of the we’re-in-this-together realities of health insurance seems to elude either members or leaders, or both, in some area teacher unions. Health-care costs have kept two such unions and school boards in KentCounty at a strident impasse muted only by two weeks of Christmas vacation.

The teacher unions are clinging to the health coverage status quo with the tenacity a fabled Victorian maiden exhibits in a death-before-dishonor drama. Along with that comes the usual pro forma whining about “teaching without a contract,” which is neither germane nor true.

It’s sad that self-styled professionals possessing college degrees believe economic realities oughtn’t apply to them, even though those realities impinge with annually increasing force upon their employers. Unlike the UAW, of course, the Michigan Education Association needn’t worry about international market share or exporting jobs to China.

The MEA says its concern is the welfare of The Children.

Behind that sham, of course, lies the cynical belief is that they’re drawing from a bottomless well of tax dollars.    

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus