Fact Check on Your Benefits

There’s quite a bit of misinformation about how dental and vision benefits are implemented for members. It seems there is some confusion about how we got where we are, and why some people are having issues. It’s important that everyone understands their benefits and how they work, or why they don’t.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that your Union dues pay for your dental and vision coverage. They absolutely do not. The Union does not pay for dental or vision insurance, and the costs are NOT deducted from your paycheck. In fact, members do not contribute at all for this coverage. Both dental and vision are Employer Paid Benefits. These benefits are paid for solely by DC Government and the amount the department contributes is negotiated through the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in Article 31 (Dental Insurance) and Article 32 (Vision Insurance). The CBA states that although the government will pay for the benefits, the Union will have to administer them. The Union agrees to administer the benefits to minimize expenses to increase the buying power. Here is Section 1 of the Article:

ARTICLE 31 DENTAL INSURANCE

Section 1. As of Fiscal Year 2004, the Employer agrees to contribute no more than $13.84 per month as the premium for self coverage and $29.67 per month for the premium for family coverage in an approved dental plan; and increase the contributions on October 1 of each successive year of the agreement by the same percentage as the CPI-W for the Washington Metropolitan Area published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, for the preceding year.

In order to increase the amount that is paid by MPD, it must be negotiated and agreed upon through collective bargaining. The only exception is that members who elect to have the dental PPO over the DHMO pay an additional $6.67 for single coverage, on top of MPD’s coverage.

When our last contract expired in 2007, the Union began to negotiate a new contract. Both Article 31 and 32 were on the table for bargaining and the DC Police Union pushed for increased coverage as insurance costs were becoming more expensive. The Union stated that $13.84 was not enough for both Vision and Dental. MPD’s position was that the members did not need any increase in coverage and the 2007 amount was more than adequate. As you’re all aware, those negotiations broke down over several issues and the contract went to arbitration.

The DC Police Union cited that MPD’s contribution had not gone up in years, and was only within industry standards in 2007. The Union used the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Labor’s CPI-W (Consumer Price Index) for insurance in the DC area to argue to the arbitrator that MPD’s contribution was inadequate. Here is the exact language the Union provided:

“FOP points out that MPD has not increased its contributions to Dental, Optical, and Employee Assistance program premiums since the last CBA expired. FOP represents that, despite the lack of any increase in these fringe benefit premium contributions, optical and EAP providers have continued the same benefits level, while the dental providers recently reduced their benefits somewhat. FOP argues its fringe benefits LBOs [Last Best Offers] are the more reasonable as well because it must plan 10 to 20 years ahead to maintain its reputation, to make its providers whole, to establish credibility in the market, to forge long-term relationships, and to ensure providers’ loyalty through times of no premium increase. FOP argues that MPD’s fringe benefit LBOs provide, by contrast, no cost-of-living adjustments, except prospectively, which FOP argues is unfair and unreasonable. It asserts that MPD offered no testimony in support of its LBOs and no explanation for ignoring the uncompensated FY09-FY12 premium increases. FOP contends that MPD’s LBO will short-change FOP and its well-meaning providers as a consequence of the drawn-out negotiations. For these reasons, FOP asserts that its LBO on dental, optical, and EAP benefits LBO should be adopted.”

MPD argued vehemently that our members did not need additional coverage and that the Union’s position of having MPD pay more to providers was a violation of DC Law. MPD’s argument was that the Union’s position on Articles 31 and 32 were just too expensive for the city. Here is the department’s posture to the arbitrator:

“MPD argues that FOP’s fringe benefits LBOs will cost $1,098,874 more than MPD’s fringe benefits LBOs.”

“In addition, MPD argues that there is no documentation to support FOP’s claim that benefits were reduced for Dental benefits. MPD argues that FOP’s fringe benefit LBOs will result in MPD paying additional money to providers, but employees will receive no new (or retroactive) services or benefits. MPD maintains that, as a result, FOP’s LBOs advance the providers’ - but not the employees’ - interests.”

After a long battle for these benefits, the arbitrator favored MPD’s position. The ruling was that our members do not need or deserve the same benefits they had, since the policies had become more expensive. Here is the arbitrator’s decision on the matter:

“For all these reasons, I find that MPD’s fringe benefits LBOs are the more reasonable, under the applicable statutory standards, achieving a prompt and fair settlement of the dispute.”

Our last hope was that the D.C. Council would reject the contract when it was brought to them for ratification. The Union lobbied the D.C. Council members in an effort to convince them of the problems the arbitrator’s decision would create; however, only two of them agreed. Here is how they voted to ratify the contract as the arbitrator ruled:

So what does this mean? The amount that MPD had agreed to pay in the 2004-2008 contract was no longer enough to continue to pay for the same coverage. The Union argued that the contribution should go up so our members could be well covered and able to maintain their health and that of their families. The MPD argued that members did not need an increased contribution and it would be a burden to the city, suggesting we find new coverage that was cheaper. Ultimately the arbitrator, David Vaughn, sided with MPD and the government. The Union had to find the best policies we could. Shopping for insurance in 2014 with a 2007 budget is not easy, especially in the wake of new federal mandates for health coverage.

The way we’ll have to fix this problem moving forward is through contract negotiations. We must insist that MPD contribute enough to cover adequate insurance for our members. We will need the help of the D.C. Council to get around our Chief’s ridiculous position of railroading us to protect her budget.

In light of our referendum tomorrow on the proposal for a dues increase, I hope you all take into consideration the influence we can have on the D.C. Council when we collectively and strategically fund initiatives to make sure city leaders respect our profession. Whether it is dental and vision benefits, fair wages, retirement, or how this department is managed, the buck stops with them, and the only political muscle we can wield in this city, is a well-funded PAC.

The DC Police Union will continue to fight for better benefits and attempt to improve the services we now have. Please call or email us with specific questions or issues. We have already found solutions to problems for a large number of members. We are here to help and look forward to working with you.

Posted November 30 2015 at 9:40 AM by Gregg Pemberton | Permanent Link

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