Taking Back Buy Backs
WPRI’s Tim White has been looking into the practice of teacher healthcare buybacks in Rhode Island (with the television segment airing tonight at eleven):
After combing teacher contracts for all 36 school districts, Target 12 crunched the numbers. Here are some of the most generous buy-back offers we found.
-Newport teachers can get up to a $5,800 check to opt-out of coverage.
-West Warwick teachers can get $5,500 per family plan.
-Smithfield teachers can get a $4,500 check every year.
There’s a perverse sense to the typical argument on behalf of buybacks:
“I think providing a modest cash incentive is a reasonable opportunity and unions give to the employees by providing these waiver payments,” said James Parisi of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers.
Parisi believes that buy-backs are a good deal for towns.
The perversity comes in when one considers that the reason “incentive” comes into play is that the public gives its employees benefits so far out of proportion from what’s available elsewhere that they are unlikely to find incentive in the fact that a spouse’s healthcare is better.
(A secondary argument is that households containing two members in the same public-sector workplace could cost the employer more by each taking the healthcare, but that possibility ought to be obviated out of hand in policy, if not in law.)