Town employees, teachers call for health insurance rate change

May 20, 2019

Town employees and teachers are uniting to send a message: Health care costs are out of control, and the town needs to pay more to keep its employees.

Outside Town Hall on May 20, more than a dozen teachers and town employees were out holding signs along the sidewalks. Jane Kirby, President of the Dartmouth Town Employees Association, held up a sign reading “Town benefits should not be employee burdens.”

“The benefits are not benefits, they are a burden to employees,” Kirby said.

At issue is the ratio of what the town and employees pay for health care. In Dartmouth, the town covers 52 percent of the cost. It’s up to employees to pay the remaining 48 percent.

The town offers an HMO, PPO, and a high-deductible HSA plan. Costs range from $103.20 a week for individual coverage to $256.72 for a family plan on the HMO, and $150.63 to $382.37 on the PPO. Teachers pay the about same amount in total on a shorter 42-week schedule, with higher week-to-week rates.

The rates are the highest in the region.

Kirby said the high-deductible plan has been unpopular for employees. Out of 743 benefits eligible full-time employees, she said only 17 are enrolled in the plan.

Renee Vieira, President of the Dartmouth Educators Association, negotiates her union’s health insurance with the School Committee. She has not yet sent a proposal to the committee, but the School Committee has sent one to the union: Accept the high-deductible plan with a 60-40 split, a move she does not believe is going to happen.

“It doesn’t benefit enough of my members to sign on to that plan,” Vieira said.

Kirby said fixing the health care problem will reduce employee turnover and hiring difficulties. She said it would not affect salaries or retirement benefits due to the way health insurance is budgeted.

Town employees’ contracts expire on June 30. Teachers’ contracts expire on August 31. Teacher assistants’ contracts expire at the end of the school year.