The state has historically provided less support for school employees than it provides for other state employees and so they've had to shoulder more of their costs. Lack of participation is a problem, too. People don't make enough to afford health insurance (even though they can't afford NOT to have health insurance, as bankruptcy after bankruptcy shows.) Catastrophic claims were an immediate problem this year, too.
A long-time foot soldier in this fight commented to me this morning:
Issue has been neglected for decades. I believe the lack of a competitive health insurance benefit fails the adequacy constitutional test. How can adequate and equitable salaries be required, but then offer such an inferior health benefit? The comparison between teacher and state employee premiums is a sad commentary on our state's commitment to public education. And worse... Superintendent premiums are typically paid 100%.
A constitutional challenge on disparity in health coverage? Interesting thought.
PS — This has nothing to do with Obamacare.
PPS — A further note from my friend.
Require superintendents to pay same premiums as teachers, and we 'd fix the problem in a hurry.
UPDATE: A superintendent informs me that superintendents DO pay the same as lower-level employees. They are insured by the same plan, with the same options and benefits and costs.
The legislature changed the law several years ago to prevent school districts from paying for health insurance as part of a benefit package for superintendents. But the cost of that health insurance can be included in figuring the base salary.