Study finds teacher healthcare pricey

Feb. 13, 2013 at 1:47 PM   |   0 comments

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Health insurance costs for U.S. teachers, a strongly unionized profession, are significantly higher than those in private sector jobs, an academic study found.

Healthcare costs were 26 percent higher than private-sector workers on an unadjusted basis in 2012, said a study scheduled to appear in the spring edition of "Education Next."

The study attempts to quantify health insurance costs for a heavily unionized profession versus costs for private-sector employees.

Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, education reform and economics Professor Robert Costrell and doctoral fellow Jeffery Dean, both at the University of Arkansas, found average healthcare costs of $8,559 for teachers versus $6,803 for private sector employees, unadjusted.

However, "when adjusted for higher participation rates in healthcare plans among teachers versus private-sector professionals, the costs are 16 percent higher for teachers -- $9,838 versus $8,490 in the private sector," the study found.

On average, teacher healthcare costs for U.S. school districts rose 4 percent per year above inflation from 2004 through 2012, Costrell and Dean said.

The study also analyzed healthcare costs in Wisconsin, where a new law -- Act 10 -- eliminated benefits from local collective bargaining.

Calling the state a "natural experiment in changing teacher union strength," the authors said health insurance costs dropped sharply after Act 10 became law.

Data from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards showed "a sharp drop in employer premiums from 2011 to 2012 after implementation of the act."

After adjusting savings estimates to account for an average growth of premium costs that were likely to continue, the study found "estimated savings of $2,614 for family coverage and $1,304 for single coverage, or savings of 13 percent to 19 percent from the projected district premiums for 2012," Education Next said in a statement.

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