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Teachers Health Trust in it for long haul

As a person who values truth and integrity, I can no longer sit by while the Review-Journal makes inaccurate claims concerning the Teachers Health Trust. I would like to set the record straight.

In 1983, Clark County School District teachers had three premium increases in 14 months of 23.9 percent, 17.9 percent and 29.4 percent. The for-profit health insurance plans were doing what they’ve always done and will always do: make profit from people’s illnesses and injuries.

The Clark County Education Association and the school district decided to work together to control health care costs (not just the CCEA, as the Review-Journal continues to report) by creating the Teachers Health Trust. The Review-Journal should also stop saying the union “runs” or “manages” the trust. It is run by an independent board that has legal fiduciary responsibility.

Because the Review-Journal lacks research and objectivity in covering issues related to the trust, here are some facts. According to the 2014 Milliman Report, since 2008, the average employer’s increase in health care spending was 58 percent and the average increase of employee contributions to health care was 73 percent. Since 2008, there has been no increase in contributions from the school district to the health plan. While the rest of the country’s employers paid much more for employee health insurance, the school district increased its contributions by nothing for eight years, although health care costs increased 7 to 12 percent per year.

The school district currently contributes less than half the national average employer contribution to health insurance: $537, vs. the national average of $1,126. You never read about that or about the salary of the CEO of UnitedHealthcare, who made more than $55 million last year (according to a 2014 proxy statement). Meanwhile, the only nonprofit health insurance company in Southern Nevada has delivered tremendous care while holding costs steady for 10 years. No other health insurance company can make that claim. The trust is neither trying to please shareholders with profits nor pay our board more than $100 million per year, like the current for-profit board that runs the other health insurance plan for the district.

The Teachers Health Trust is one of the best health insurance organizations in the country at utilizing premiums for health care. Compare its 4 percent administrative costs with 21 to 22 percent for the current for-profit insurer of other school district employees (according to the 2015 first-quarter UnitedHealthcare earnings report).

The new model being proposed is considered cutting-edge in the industry, the National Committee for Quality Assurance “medical home” model. The NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care by developing quality standards and performance measures for health care entities. The coordination of care gives much better outcomes to its enrollees than any previous model and does not reward doctors for underutilizing care, like the HMO model or capitation model many for-profit companies embrace.

Even current for-profit insurance companies have been researching and slowly implementing medical home models for years. But the trust is not trying to make millions of dollars from it like the for-profit insurance companies do. The trust wants to use premiums for health care, which is what they are meant to be used for.

This nonprofit trust, created and controlled by teachers, has survived against all odds and has consistently been rated one of the top insurance providers in the state by providers and enrollees. Of course, the private-sector health care industry, driven by profits, would love to see the trust fail and turned over to the one for-profit company that controls 75 percent of the market in Southern Nevada. It would be 1983 all over again.

I have treated patients for more than 22 years and watched for-profit companies constantly raise premiums and deny care. Why? So they can make more money and fuel more greed from their shareholders.

The Teachers Health Trust is in it for the long haul. Teachers and their families are depending on it.

— David Tatlock is a Teachers Health Trust board member, a physical therapist and a teacher.

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