After spending two hours in traffic in order to go eight miles today, the motto of this blog post will be “Go Green.” Lest you think Kafkateach has turned eco-warrior, I will still tie this theme back into my two areas of speciality coverage: School Board meetings and dismal Miami Dade County teacher pay. But first, a short rant about the endless construction zone known as the “305.”
Ironically, as I was set to cover the Industrial Revolution in my class today, I was twenty minutes late to work due to the Brightline rail work shutting down major streets along my commute in addition to being stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for a seemingly endless cargo train going 2 miles an hour to cross the tracks. Two hundred years after railroads were first invented and we still haven’t come up with a system to use our railways to solve transportation issues rather than create traffic mayhem? I’m all for efficient rail transport, but how is the Brightline different from the already existent Tri-Rail system? A truly bright rail line would be elevated above street level with frequent commuter stops up and down the Biscayne corridor so as not to impede car traffic and actually serve as a viable public transportation system to alleviate traffic. I’m beginning to think the company behind the Brightline train is not very bright at all if they chose to shut down major commuter routes during the height of tourist season and boat show weekend!
After spending twenty minutes waiting for a train to pass on my way to work, I got to spend another twenty minutes waiting for a slew of yachts to cross under a small bridge that has been under construction for three years. Fun fact: it took four years to build the freakin’ Golden Gate bridge in the 1930s!!! All streets surrounding the entrances to my school were under construction and even the parking lot outside of my son’s daycare was being torn up. As if being subjected to the endless construction along my commute today wasn’t bad enough, it coincided with the monthly hijacking of NPR by the School Board meeting. At this point the Kafkateach blog will return to its regularly scheduled programing: School Board coverage and inadequate teacher pay rants.
I happened to tune in to 91.3 at the exact moment that the School Board was discussing the ever pressing issue of health care. Normally, whenever the School Board and the Superintendent discuss health care it is under the pretext that teachers will not be getting a raise due to rising health care costs. This time my ears perked up when the conversation seemed to be suggesting that health care costs were on the decline. The reason being that employees are making smarter decisions, including the decision to keep spouses off of the district’s health insurance. The district helped employees make the decision by implementing a $500 penalty for insuring an employed spouse this year. Then they preceded to sell employees on using the Bluebook healthcare cost transparency tool by promising that any funds saved in health care costs would be used for employee salaries. The school district will even send you a check for $35 if you use a provider that is coded as “green” (meaning at or below a fair market price). The slogan of the meeting quickly turned into “Go Green” by using the Bluebook healthcare app. If you would like to download the app or just use the website, here is the link healthcarebluebook.com/cc/mdcps.
The Superintendent claims this app made him, “Excited, but in a sad way.” I’m still not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing but I was willing to check out any new app that was being sold to me as a means of increasing teacher pay. Lord knows I’ve done my share of kvetching on this blog about dismal Dade salaries, so if I can use this blog to promote anything that might help give us all a raise, it’s worth a shot. I found the app easy to use and informative. To cite the Superintendent’s example, an ankle MRI had a 840% variance in price. He even suggested it would be cheaper to send employees on a vacation to another state to get the procedure done. Not only do we get to deal with endless construction, traffic, low salaries and high housing costs, our health care costs are amongst the highest in the nation due to Miami Dade being the fraud capital of the world.
In order to incentivize employees to research and find the cheapest options before undergoing a procedure, the district is offering to pay you money if you “Go green” and is promising any funds saved in health insurance will go back to the pool of money used for salaries. Of course, just choosing the cheapest option isn’t always viable when it comes to healthcare. The only time I have used health care services involved me giving birth. I was easily able to use the bluebook tool to see that my hospital of choice was in the “green.” Luckily, that happened to be the hospital closest to my house and place of employment. If an expensive hospital in the “red” zone was the closest hospital to my house, I still would have used it because if a baby is about to come out of my hoo-ha I’m not about to spend two hours in Miami traffic to drive to Homestead so I can save the school district a few bucks. For other procedures, like an MRI, it might be worth an employee’s time to visit a cheaper facility.
My other concern with the viability of the bluebook healthcare tool saving the district money and leading to larger raises would be the retiree factor. Undoubtedly, retirees probably make up a large portion of our healthcare costs due to the nature of aging and accompanying ailments. Retirees would probably be the least likely to use the bluebook healthcare app due to lack of information, reluctance to use technology, and the fact that they have nothing to gain from the system. Those of us who do have something to gain from helping curtail district health insurance costs, should do our part to collectively make decisions that might benefit us all. The dark side of this rhetoric would be the shifting of health care costs to the individual in the form of higher copays and penalties imposed for insuring dependents like the one imposed for insuring spouses this year. For those of you who had to fork up an extra $500 for the right to ensure your spouse, I thank you for helping to pay for my potential raise. Oh, wait, I might have to pay the $500 fee to ensure my spouse next year! Which leads me to ask, if one receives a $500 raise but then is subjected to a new $500 annual health insurance fee, did one really receive a raise at all?