Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pay No Attention to the MESSA Behind the Curtain!

Like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz, there are vested interests working to keep students, parents, tax payers, and teachers in the dark about how things really work in the land of Oz, especially as it relates to health care costs. There is no other way to characterize a new push to gut recently enacted legislation designed to bring transparency and COMPETITION to health care costs. This assault on freedom of information and restriction of competition comes via the effort of
House Speaker Pro Tempore Michael G. Sak.

Representative Sak introduced HB5454 which looks to repeal the competitive bid requirement for health care - and this from a guy that professes support a priority of “fighting the skyrocketing cost of health care.” I suppose that it’s ok to have skyrocketing costs if you contributed to Representative Sak’s campaign fund; over $7,500 in campaign contributions from MEA and Blue Cross Blue Shield related contributors. In case you don’t know - the MEA via their conduit, MESSA, is the third largest customer of Blue Cross Blue Shield. How does this all work? MESSA buys insurance from Blue Cross Blue Shield, marks it up, and resells the insurance to it's own members - it's simply a middle man. The problem for school districts is that MESSA does not disclose what a districts actual costs are, does not share program savings with school districts, and has in the past not provided the critical information required of ALL OTHER INSURANCE PROVIDERS that operate in Michigan. To be fair MESSA could be a great vehicle to facilitate pooling efficiencies, but those efficiencies should be shared amongst all districts not just those that MESSA decides, and not at the cost of driving up administrative expenses to feed the role of middle man.

It’s easy to see why Representative Sak would like to gut competitive bidding - even if it means being cast as a hypocrite (see link above). And make no mistake about what Representative Sak is trying to protect - a closed system called MESSA.

The bottom line in this fight is teacher jobs and students performance. The inability to get the best health care at the best price is killing teacher jobs. Combine that with the crushing burden of an under funded and over promised teacher pension plan you have some of the worst economic circumstances conspiring against kids, teachers, and tax payers. Send Representative Sak a message (link here) that you think what he's doing with HB5454 is wrong! Our kids, our teachers, and every tax payer in Michigan deserves better.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,

Appreciate the opportunity to open a civil dialogue with you. MESSA is a not-for-profit membership organization (a VEBA, or Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association). MESSA designs its own benefit plans and then seeks underwriters for those benefits. Currently our medical benefits are udnerwritten by the Blues and BCS Life (we have to have two underwriters because the Blues does not have benefits designs exactly similar to ours).

We have nothing to hide. We file an annual financial report with the state Office of Financial and Insurance Services. We were completely open with the Hay Group, the actuaries hired by State Senate Republicans in 2005 to study the health insurance market for schools. The Hay Group determined that MESSA was well-run, impressive and that our pooling model had squeezed just about all of the savings available based on our size and bargaining power (the bottom line: we do provide the best health care at the best price). Please refer to the following links below.

Hay Group actuary: MESSA is impressive.

Hay Group actuary: MESSA is well run.

As far as your linking to the Money Machine article on the Mackinac Center's Web site, those charges are almost 15 years old. They were investigated by a series of insurance commissioners appointed by Gov. John Engler from 1994-96 and dismissed by Commissioner Joe Olson in 1996.

MESSA is hardly a "closed system" or a monopoly. We serve about 45 percent of the education insurance market in Michigan. We're a Michigan-based company tht employs more than 300 Michigan citizens.

MESSA has served the health insurance needs of school employees for almost 50 years. We are popular with our members because we provide quality coverage and outstanding service (the hallmarks of any successful business model).

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

Gary Fralick
MESSA Director of Communications and Government Relations

Rob Lawrence said...

Thanks Gary,

See my post above. Rob.