Striking teachers’ health insurance set to expire in December, Portland Public Schools spies exploited

With a teachers strike keeping Portland Public Schools closed for a second week in a row, all signs point to students being out on Thanksgiving. But there’s one thing that might be strong enough to get the contract done: health insurance.

All eyes are on Nov. 16: Portland Public Schools said if teachers don’t return to the classroom that day, they won’t be eligible for benefits in December. The district plans to mail a package to striking teachers on Nov. 16 with instructions on how to sign up for the expensive COBRA insurance plan.

Portland teachers already have health insurance for November based on their jobs in October, so the changes won’t start affecting their coverage until December. But receiving a package about switching to COBRA insurance may come as a shock to striking educators, who have been relentlessly picketing in the rain in front of empty schools since Nov. 1.

PPS stated this as its course of action in an Oct. 23 letter to educators: “Coverage will terminate at the end of the month if an employee stops working or is not paid for half of the month’s contract days,” they wrote. Indicates teachers will be closed on December 1st.

The Portland Teachers Association says the deadline threatened by the district is false and that, in fact, coverage is set to expire on Dec. 15. oregonian The controversy was noted yesterday.

At a news conference Monday at the state Capitol in Salem, PAT Vice President Jacque Dixon insisted that the pay period ending Nov. 15 “provides educators with health coverage through December.” “.

“I’m not sure that’s really a factor that we need to worry about right now, but I do believe [the Oregon Education Association] We will take care of it if necessary. ” Dixon said.

PAT declined to comment beyond Dixon’s statement at the press conference.

But a review of teacher benefit summaries seems clear: If school employees leave their jobs, their coverage ends at the end of the month.

The PAT employee group’s 2023 benefits summary states, “Coverage will terminate at the end of the month in which the employee resigns or stops receiving pay, unless the employee works or receives pay for more than half of the contracted days in that month. In that case, coverage will end the following month Terminates at the end of the month.”

On November 1, teachers went on strike.

Lobbyists representing the health care industry weighed in on both claims. WW and concluded that the December 1 deadline looked about right. If an employee doesn’t work between Nov. 1 and Nov. 15, “even very generous benefits” may not last until the end of December, he said.

He said these misunderstandings are common when the monthly calendar and pay cycle calendar do not match, as in PPS. “People are really confused about this.”

PAT told its members on November 1 that if teachers return to work after November 16, back pay will depend on the terms of the return to the classroom agreed in the contract.

But what if they held it on the picket line? This is a cobra.

COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allows people to keep workplace health insurance for up to 18 months after leaving a job. It has a reputation for being extremely expensive, as members typically have to pay their employer’s share of premiums as well as their own premiums.

PPS encourages any faculty with questions about COBRA to contact the Trust Office at 503-486-2107 or [email protected].

The shift will put new pressure on the Oregon Education Association, the statewide teachers union. The OEA provides a Teacher Relief Fund, with members actively participating in the strike earning $120 per day. The unions would not comment on how much money is in their funds.

The district said the total cost of COBRA for all active, currently benefit-eligible members in December was $5,118,784 — a cost that OEA would bear if the union did cover everyone’s transition to COBRA.

in an email WWOEA President Reed Scott-Schwalbach called the district’s plan to cut off health insurance a “despicable tactic” that could lead to legal action.

“I want to be clear on this: The OEA will ensure that our members in Portland have access to health insurance until they can get a fair contract,” Scott-Schwalbach said. “But the idea that PPS is threatening to illegally end the health care benefits Portland families receive in an attempt to intimidate educators into abandoning the student-centered proposals they fought for is not only disgraceful, but yet another sign of the district’s lack of focus to get a fair contract and get kids back in the classroom.”

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