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Topics: Labor Unions

In Las Vegas, teachers trusting their union are taking a gamble

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Education,Sean Higgins,Politics Digest,Labor unions,Labor,Las Vegas,Teachers Unions

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has an illuminating story up about the woes faced by members of the Clark County (Nev.) Education Association. It seems the teachers union members have just learned that their health insurance is in serious trouble:

The union-created health trust covering one of the largest employee groups in the state – Clark County’s 17,000 public school teachers – is hemorrhaging money and will be “belly up in 60 to 90 days.”

John Vellardita, executive director of the teachers union Clark County Education Association, made the announcement Tuesday in a closed union meeting. There, members received a spreadsheet detailing the dire straits facing their families’ insurance provider, the Teachers Health Trust, which has an annual revenue stream averaging $148 million.

The trust has lost more than $3.6 million since the fiscal year began July 1 because the cost of claims exceeds the trust’s revenue, according to the spreadsheet.

But the river of red ink stretches much further back.

The trust has stayed afloat the past two school years by dipping into and depleting what was a $7.23 million cash reserve. The trust would have bled its savings dry if not for a $5 million line of credit taken from the Bank of Nevada on Nov. 15, 2011, according to trust audits obtained from the Clark County School District and other sources. Less than $1 million of that credit remained in June.

“The Teachers Health Trust has drawn down its reserves to very critical levels,” Vellardita wrote in his report to members.

Interestingly, the Journal-Review also reports that the county offered during last year’s contract talks to take responsibility for the health trust. The union refused, arguing that would reduce benefits. More likely, the officials did not want their members to know just how dire the financial situation was and thought they might still be able to fix it.

Though run by the union, Clark County taxpayers still pay into the trust, with the school district putting $115.4 million into it last year alone, the majority of the fund’s $148 million in revenue. It looks like either the taxpayers or the teachers — or both — will now have to foot even more of that bill.

So what has the union been doing in response to this situation? Forcing its member to hear sales pitches from a private insurance company, time-share style. Here’s how one member described it to Las Vegas City Life:

Recently, Clark County School District teachers have been forced by thug-like union tactics — threats of having their individual health benefits revoked — to sit down for a benefits review with the American Fidelity Assurance Co., an insurance conglomerate chosen to police teachers for the union and its Health Trust.

The pretext of this scheme is that they are trying to uncover teachers declaring ineligible dependents on their health benefits. However, it sure looks to me like a shell game to rake in money for American Fidelity and the Clark County Education Association, or the teachers’ union.

When asked if the union-backed Teachers Health Trust was using an independent insurance company to police teachers, a phone monkey at the Health Trust named Debbie said, “Yeah, it’d be fair to say that.” The union’s own documents certainly make it sound that way.

For several months, teachers have been being warned to set up personal appointments with representatives from American Fidelity, or face consequences. Teachers have been told to bring their tax returns for strangers to investigate. Some American Fidelity personnel interrogating teachers have been from out of state. On top of that, the school district itself has engaged in this madness by having school secretaries remind teachers to set up their “required” meetings with these thugs in our schools. Obviously, a teacher doesn’t have a prayer when Big Brother is everywhere.

The bottom line to this? Money. It has been pretty evident the motive is profit because teachers who have never declared any dependents on their health insurance have also been directed, in writing, to attend these demoralizing shakedowns. American Fidelity, which has reportedly been granted exclusive access (approved vendor status) to teachers, gets to pitch added insurance coverage to coerced, nervous teachers (which, the union documents say, they are free to turn down). Plus, according to union insiders, the CCEA receives a nice fee from American Fidelity for such special rights.

Also, as the union documents make clear, the meetings will also cover the “benefits of CCEA membership.”

Hat tip: Education Intelligence Agency.

 

 

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