I know that the new legislation on educator health care is of importance to many of you that follow my blog so I'll share what I am learning. More information on the changes are emerging today as those close to the situation have had an opportunity to begin analyzing the bill.
Though it has been a significant issue for many and was a major cause of the difficulty in reaching agreement on the budget, I have not followed the details of the story. I do know, however, that the original bill was supported by PSE, but had vigorous opposition from WEA and that those same positions continue after passage of the revised bill. In this Education Week article a spokesperson for PSE shares his belief that there are problems with the bill, but he is pleased with its passage as it is a step in what they see as the right direction.
Rick Chisa, spokesman for the Public School Employees of Washington, the state's largest union for school support staff, said the bill that passed includes expensive new requirements — which he approves of — but doesn't provide countervailing cost savings.
"The Legislature forced itself into the position where insurance is going to cost the state more," said Chisa. "There's nothing here that helps reliably control costs long-term."
On the other hand the WEA spokesperson is not pleased with the action of the legislators.
Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, which strongly opposed changes to the current system, expressed concern that the bill was passed in the middle of the night with little public oversight. He also said the disclosure requirements appear to be unnecessarily onerous.
"This was negotiated behind closed doors without any input from the people affected by it," he said.
I am concerned with some of what I am reading as it relates to the provision to bring premiums closer together for family coverage compared to individual coverage. It makes sense and is more equitable, but I wonder how it will influence the plans that must be provided. There are also new requirements for districts in reporting data that if not done will result in the district's employee health plans being turnefd over to the state. Beginning in 2015, the state will use the reported data to rank districts based on "performance" and reward top districts with grants to lower copayments and deductibles. Wow, I never imagined being in the position of competing for state money related to health insurance premiums.
John Williams, an expert on K-12 insurance plans with the Health Care Authority, said that the new calculus will have to involve raising premiums for individuals in order to help bring down costs for those with dependents while avoiding excessive new expenses to the state.
"It's a good bill," Williams said. "It establishes the requirement that premiums be rebalanced to bring them closer together."
I am sure that this issue will resurface again as this is probably step one in a multi-step process continuing in 2016.