Navigate Up

UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

Editorial: Healthy Teachers' Contract

The Pittsburgh Board of Public Education's long struggle to contain spiraling benefits costs recently got a big assist from what some would consider an unlikely source: the city teachers union.

A 2 1/2-year agreement reached between the school district and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and approved by its membership will result in a savings of millions of dollars in health care costs. That savings in turn should help the district avoid future deficits in its operating budget.

There was a willingness on both sides to face up to the financial difficulties confronting the system, and the determination to make painful choices. Under the agreement, teachers will be able to keep their current coverage with Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and do so at a cost to the district that will be $15 million less than officials had anticipated.

How did that happen? After accepting the idea that something had to be done about health care costs, the federation agreed, if necessary, to consider changing their insurer from Highmark to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. It supported the district's efforts to be aggressive in its proposals to both insurers. When UPMC responded in kind with a bid that would dramatically reduce health care costs, it forced Highmark to be equally competitive.

The result: Highmark reduced its three-year proposal to a less than 1 percent increase for 2001 and rate caps of about 7 percent for years 2002 and 2003, producing a $15 million reduction in expected costs. Moreover, city teachers won't have to deal with the inconvenience that often accompanies a change in health insurers.

There are other positive aspects to the contract. The union agreed that principals at 20 to 25 schools would play a role in recommending teacher transfers. That change is in keeping with the current nationwide emphasis on strong principals. The union also agreed to allow school officials to adjust the starting times of high schools, allowing bus companies more flexibility and creating the possibility of additional savings for the district.

As important as any specific feature of the new contract is the spirit of cooperation that produced it. This process is a model for future negotiations - and not only in Pittsburgh.

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |