Chicago Public Schools have a different teacher union than charter schools in Streamwood, Smack. I know that’s not common knowledge so you were probably unaware of that.
Our union negotiated a credit from the schools in our district that we could apply to our own health insurance plans that we bought from a second party. Primarily the cause was a change in policy of United Health Care which applied the copay to each line item in a bill (which for a child birth has A LOT OF LINE ITEMS! You have anesthesia, you have room charges, food charges, medicine charges, specialist charges, nursery charges, etc…it adds up fast!) Instead of dropping UHC altogether, we negotiated with the school for a clause that allowed us to find a different policy somewhere else and have that amount auto-debited from our paychecks (kinda like what happens for your payroll taxes and if the courts garnish your wages, etc) and applied to our insurance bills. The only problem with this plan is that if we don’t go with the UHC plan we have to pay taxes on the wages earned that are spent on health insurance.
Thing is, however, UHC was charging us a lot more than BCBS is charging me and providing worse coverage. I, personally, think the reason for that was because we were a captive set of customers. We had to use UHC so they could screw us. Now we can shop around and with the market the way it is, other providers are dying to get us onto their books and so gave us a relatively great deal. (Relative to UHC.)
And I am not confusing will not turn away with free. They will not turn you away, even if you have never paid an emergency room bill. Therefore, since you don’t have to pay for services rendered, by definition, it is free.