District Trendline

February 2015: Health insurance premiums

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District Trendline, previously known as Teacher Trendline, provides actionable research to improve district personnel policies that will strengthen the teacher workforce. Want evidence-based guidance on policies and practices that will enhance your ability to recruit, develop, and retain great teachers delivered right to your inbox each month? Subscribe here.

With health insurance coverage making headlines in both national and local news, this month's Trendline examines health insurance premiums for teachers and their dependents in the largest districts across the country.

Coverage of teachers' health insurance premiums

In our database of 118 traditional school districts, there are 72 which specify the maximum portion that a district must pay towards employees' health insurance premiums: most (71 percent) pay at least 90 percent of the full premium. About half (49 percent) pay all of it.

Not included above are two districts—Anchorage and Little Rock— that define a dollar cap rather than a percentage maximum for employee's premium coverage. Anchorage offers a maximum of $1,540 per month for its employees; in Little Rock, the district offers $358 per month. While these dollar caps seem very far apart, both seem to be fairly generous and we suspect the difference in amount has something to do with the cost of living in these two cities.

Additionally, just as we observed two years ago, districts cover a much higher portion of their employees' health insurance premiums relative to all other sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (see Table 3), last year employers in the civilian, private and public sectors covered 81 percent, 79 percent and 87 percent of their employees' health insurance premiums, respectively. On average, the districts above cover 93 percent.

A couple of these districts have interesting incentives for healthy behavior within their health insurance coverage policies. Greenville County (SC) pays for 97 percent of their employees' premiums, but smokers are required to pay an additional $40-$60 per month. In Jefferson County (KY), 100 percent of employees' premiums are covered unless the employee is a smoker, in which case only 95 percent of the premium is covered.

In grappling with escalating costs, districts in Connecticut, Maryland and Indiana have phased in lowered contributions each year of the district's collective bargaining contract term.

Coverage of dependents

Fewer districts in the Teacher Contract Database specify how much they will pay towards dependents' health insurance premiums. For the 57 districts that do not specify coverage for employees' dependents (out of 118), we left them out of this analysis rather than assuming they do not cover dependents at all (as there may well be separate memoranda addressing their policies).

Not surprisingly, of the districts that do list a specific percentage for dependents' coverage in the teacher contract, fewer are apt to cover at least 90 percent of the premium than cover the employee's premium (47 percent versus 71 percent cited above). Only two districts specify in their contracts that employees' dependents' premiums are not covered at all by the district—Polk County (FL) and St. Louis; both districts do, however, cover 100 percent of their employees' premiums.

Here are the numbers, district-by-district:

What is the maximum portion of employees' dependents' health insurance premium paid by the employer?

Not included in the breakdown above are another five districts that put monetary caps on dependents' premium coverage. Anchorage, Aldine (TX) and Little Rock offer a monthly coverage of $1,540, $330 and $358 per month, respectively. Minneapolis offers $3,850 annually for dependents' coverage while Indianapolis offers a maximum of $8,445 to $12,142 depending on the employee's selected plan.

Excluding the five districts which set a monetary cap on coverage for dependents' premiums and the 52 districts where we cannot find language on this issue, we find that the 58 districts in our database, on average, cover 83 percent of their employees' dependents' health insurance premiums.

While this may seem much lower compared to the average 93 percent premium coverage offered by districts for employees, this rate is again relatively high when compared to other sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (see Table 4) reports that the when it comes to employer's coverage for families, the civilian sector covered 69 percent, the private sector covered 68 percent and the public sector covered 71 percent.

Again, districts in our database come out looking generous in this comparison.