We Need Better Health Insurance, Not a Back Door Fee Increase: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 3

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency.

Another reason I am running is to push for badly needed changes to our health and dental insurance. The mere mention of our insurance elicits enormous frustration from the teachers at my school. There is a widespread perception that this plan does not provide good value. The vast majority of teachers with the ability to register on their partner’s insurance plan all seem to do so.

healthUnfortunately neither the leadership of the MTA nor QPAT seem at all interested in working to make improvements to our insurance. While I believe that a thorough investigation into the problems with these plans needs to be done, there are two things that could be done immediately to improve these plans. The first is to actually consult the members on the cost and composition of the plan.

Our union leadership loves to tell us that these are our plans and that we have complete control over them. Yet since these plans have been established the members have never been formally consulted on their cost and composition. Perhaps members would be willing to remove the coverage of certain items in order to reduce fees? Or perhaps the members would be willing to pay more for additional coverage? Or perhaps the members would like to replace the coverage of certain items for improved coverage on others? The point is there is no way of knowing any of this as long as we have a union leadership that is unwilling to put in the work to consult the members. How are we ever to improve the members’ satisfaction with these plans if we never ask them what they think? What good is membership control if the members are never given an opportunity to exercise that control?

Another problem with our health plan that could be immediately addressed has to do with the fact that every year QPAT removes approximately $300,000 from the plan. This means that in the last ten years there is $3 million of healthcare coverage that the English teachers of Quebec paid for but did not receive. QPAT and the MTA have claimed for years that QPAT uses this money for the ‘administration’ of the plan.

Despite being asked repeatedly for a break-down of exactly how this money is being spent, QPAT has never provided a detailed justification for removing this money from our plan. In the absence of such a breakdown members should be asking themselves if in fact this is a kind of back-door increase of QPAT’s fees.

In a recent meeting of the MTA’s Reps Assembly MTA President and QPAT Board of Directors member Peter Sutherland essentially admitted that this money was NOT being used entirely for the ‘administration’ of our plans. According to the minutes of the April 2014 meeting:

Peter Sutherland spoke against the proposed amendment (calling for the $300,000 to be applied to either a reduction in the health premiums or an extension of benefits) because this money also helps to pay for the running of the QPAT office. If that amount is taken out of the revenues, QPAT might have to increase the dues.

This quote is remarkable for two reasons. For one it illustrates that QPAT reducing its spending is not even within the realm of possibility in Sutherland’s mind. If QPAT has less revenues the only thing it can possibly do, according to Sutherland, is to increase its fees.

The second reason that this is remarkable is that it is an explicit admission that a substantial amount of the money QPAT is collecting to administer our health plan is actually being used for the operating expenses of its office. The problem here is that if QPAT feels it needs to increase fees to pay for its operating expenses there is a proper way to do this: hold a referendum of the members. By removing this money from our insurance QPAT has found a back-door means of increasing the money it receives from members without consulting them in referendum.

Mr Sutherland has indicated repeatedly that he is comfortable with this back-door method of QPAT raising its fees. The question is, are the members who pay for this increase through less insurance coverage equally as comfortable?

To learn more about my candidacy check my campaign website http://rgreen.freeshell.org. If the program I am proposing looks like the kind of change you would like to see in your union please help spread the word by talking to your colleagues, printing articles to leave in your staff room or sharing articles on social media. Most importantly be sure to vote on Wednesday May 21st. Change cannot happen on its own. We the members need to make it happen!

To read more about this topic see my previous post ‘What’s Wrong With QPAT’s Health Insurance?

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