Teachers skeptical about Barbour's insurance plan
CLASSROOM HELP Mary Carlisle, right, a Meridian High School teacher, helps Jeremy Bates, a junior, during trigonometry class on Wednesday. Some public school teachers say they are skeptical about Gov. Haley Barbour's proposal to save money by giving state employees new, and potentially more costly, options such as letting workers pay higher deductibles or part of their health insurance premiums. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
March 4, 2004
Kate Griffin Junior High School teacher CoRinne Jordan said Wednesday she fears public school teachers will have to use a planned pay raise this fall to pay for state health insurance that now is free.
Jordan, a math teacher, is skeptical about Gov. Haley Barbour's proposal to save the state money by giving state employees new, and potentially more costly, options such as letting workers pay higher deductibles or part of their health insurance premiums.
Barbour, who met Wednesday with The Meridian Star editorial board, said the state employee health insurance plan will become insolvent by November if legislators don't pump $55 million into the program.
Barbour said he would like to see the Legislature use that $55 million to fund public education.
Then, Barbour said, state employees could keep their free insurance but have a higher annual deductible. Or, he said, they could pay money out of their own pocket to obtain a lower deductible
Barbour's Meridian visit was part of a three-day swing in which he met with news media in cities across the state. The trip concludes today with stops in Southaven and Greenville.
At The Star, Barbour talked about a wide range of issues including efforts to create new jobs, persuade legislators to approve civil justice reforms and increase funding for high education.
Another concern, he said, is the state employee health insurance program.
Even if lawmakers decide to pump $55 million into health insurance, he said, they still should give state workers an option to buy a better policy for themselves.
Some teachers, however, said they aren't sure about the governor's plan.
Kathy Davis, an algebra teacher at Meridian High School, said in the past several years when teachers have received pay raises, they also saw their insurance deductibles go up and their benefits go down.
Besides state employee health insurance, Barbour said he wants to offer teachers incentives to stay in the classroom instead of retiring from the public school system.
Davis said she likes the idea of keeping veteran teachers in the classroom. But she said the state also needs to think more about attracting new people to the profession.
Jordan agreed: "How can you reward teachers not to retire if there is no money? If the state doesn't put teachers and students first, we are never going to make it.