A proposal to move school employees to the state health plan would benefit many people, including families who can’t afford their current school insurance.
A proposal to move teachers and other school employees into the state employee health plan makes a lot of sense.
Senate Bill 5726 would not save the state money, but that’s for a good reason. The plan would add more people to the state insurance pool and make insurance more affordable for school employees with families. The state would pick up the tab for the difference, and school employees would pick up the benefit.
Just like any other legislation, the bipartisan proposal crafted by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, still needs refining, but it’s heading in the right direction. The statewide teacher’s union, the Washington Education Association, is concerned that teachers and the other school employees they represent won’t get the same deal other state employees get and end up paying more for their health insurance. School employees should be treated the same as other state employees in this plan, even though it would add to the state budget to do so.
Public School Employees of Washington, which represents classroom aides and many other school employees who are not teachers, supports the plan because it benefits so many for a small cost to the union: the loss of some — but not all — bargaining power at the local level. The proposal, which was written with help from PSE, would increase the state’s share of health insurance premiums for school employees to move them up to the level given to other state government employees, according to PSE’s Doug Nelson.
Hobbs says his plan would save school districts money, make it less expensive for school employees to buy health insurance for their entire families and effectively give many people a raise because their health insurance premiums would decrease. Although many school districts offer affordable insurance plans to individuals, the family plans are out of reach for many school employees. Hobbs says his plan will fix this inequity.
Teacher representatives would negotiate statewide for this benefit as participants in a statewide benefits panel along with other state-employee representatives. School districts and the teachers union should get out of the health-insurance business, and all school employees should have access to affordable health insurance, not just teachers in the best funded school districts.
An estimated 9,000 more school employees and 30,000 dependents would gain health insurance under this proposal. More details about the plan and its costs and benefits need to be shared before a full appraisal can be completed. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday. The idea is sound.