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Dental insurance: Shouldn't school employees have a say?

September 14, 2011 |  7:25 pm


Richard Vladovic 
Is MetLife dental insurance good for school employees? Is it bad? More important, barring an overriding cost issue, shouldn't the opinions of the employees count?

It was mightily bothersome when a couple of weeks ago, the Los Angeles Unified school board decided to end its relationship with MetLife because board member Richard Vladovic had a bad experience with the company. Talk about a decision that leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. How often has the district stopped offering employees a certain company's insurance based on one employee's bad experience? Vladovic said he had talked with others who also were unhappy with MetLife. Maybe, and maybe it deserved to lose its contract, but sound decisions on employee benefits are not made by one person's straw poll, especially when it's a disgruntled person, no matter how high that disgruntled person ranks.

The correct response to Vladovic's complaint would have been for the board to instruct its managers to have the right personnel survey employees to see if there's been an ongoing problem with MetLife. Meanwhile, should employees who might have loved the insurance be forced to switch because a big boss wasn't happy? That's not a random question; according to a report this week by Times writer Jason Song, previous surveys had found that employees were satisfied with the company.

As it turned out, the board changed its mind this week after district staff worked out a deal with MetLife that included annual satisfaction surveys. Vladovic wasn't happy with that solution but couldn't muster the votes. Well resolved.

Still, Vladovic's displeasure isn't the issue here. He's entitled to voice his complaints, which might well have merited further investigation. But the earlier vote was an embarrassingly hasty overreaction by the school board, based on a dearth of evidence. It also hints at a troubling willingness to placate the powerful. Worst is that the board -- not just this particular board but the school board going back years -- has a terrible tendency to micromanage the district. It knows the right things to say about setting policy rather than interfering. It just has trouble, too often, with the reality of the thing.


MetLife loses L.A. Unified contract after flap with board member

Metlife's costly customer-service lesson

Reduced state dental benefits create dire situation for patients 

--Karin Klein

Photo: L.A. Unified board member Richard Vladovic. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times


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