On the second day of the session, the House Ways and Means committee had a robust hearing on the Health Care Authority (HCA) plan to consolidate K 12 insurance plans. After hearing a 1 hour presentation by the HCA staff, including John Williams, project director, the fun began.
First to testify on the panel was Shawn Lewis from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Shawn said that Randy Dorn wanted to be present but couldn’t make it however he has supported this consolidation since the mid 90’s.
Then Randy Parr, WEA lobbyist, spent approximately 15 minutes explaining why the WEA is “absolutely opposed” to any consolidation of K 12 insurance.
Then I have an opportunity to speak. In my testimony I explain that the fact that so many employees pay nothing for insurance premiums and families pay up to $1,400 per month is a clear indication that the K 12 insurance system is broken. I then read numerous statements from our members about how they can’t afford insurance for themselves or their families. I followed that with supportive statements about the HCA report but indicated PSE will continue to work on improving it (especially in the collective bargaining arena).
Debra Long, the school board association President, and Central Valley School District board member, explained that they supported the consolidation but wanted it to go further than the HCA proposed (take away all ability to collectively bargain insurance). They also advocated for a hold harmless clause to protect them should the transition to the new plan create additional costs to districts.
Finally, Dave Westberg, Operating Engineers lobbyist, spoke about how his union, the Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers, and WEA all oppose the taking away of collective bargaining rights.
As important as the testimony is, the question and answer periods are just as important. Stick around to the end because I reminded everyone that despite WEA’s efforts to improve insurance rates this year, our members didn’t receive the benefit of their efforts.