The Madison City Commission may not have found anything to do last night, but the Madison Central School Board still had an agenda worth meeting about. Among the items handled were changes to the district's health insurance plan (PDF alert!). Premiums are going up, but only by 1.1 to 1.3 percent. That's not bad, considering that last year, health insurance premiums for employer-based plans nationwide increased 6.1%, triple the rate of inflation—and that was the lowest increase this decade. Overall, health insurance premiums nationwide have doubled since 2000. Ugh. Let's hope Madison Central can sustain those relatively low premium increases.
Of course, health coverage is still far from cheap. With the new increases, Madison teachers will pay $11,616 a year for the best family plan. That's just 4% less than the 2007 national average for family coverage of $12,100. (I'm looking for a 2008 average to compare, though I suspect we don't have that data yet.) So much for the benefits of that lower cost of living in South Dakota—
Hey, wait a minute: I thought our amazingly low cost of living balanced out our amazingly low wages? That's what Russ Olson said last week at the candidates forum: he thinks South Dakotans' wages are actually tenth in the nation once you factor in cost of living. Well, as I've pointed out before, our low teacher wages are still way out of whack with our cost of living. If we factor these salary figures by these cost of living figures—divide salary by overall cost-of-living index—South Dakota's teacher pay ranking increases from 51st to (sound the trumpets) 49th. Factor those salaries just relative health care costs, and South Dakota's teacher pay ranks even better... 40th in the nation.
Russ, feel free to forward me that study by Dr. Ralph Brown. In the mean time, stay healthy, teachers!
Update 2008.10.15 07:27 CDT: The Kaiser Family Foundation says that last year, the average annual employee contribution to an employer-based family policy in 2007 was $3,281. As I note in comments below, the school district here kicks in $360 a month for each employee, or $4,320 a year. For the cheapest family coverage offered by the Madison school district (the $2,500/$5,000 deductible), an employee will pay $4,068 in 2008-2009. The top family plan ($500/$1000 deductible) will run teachers $7,296.
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