Insurance

Bills and events next week

As the first week of session wraps up, its helpful to recap the week, file reports about bills filed so far, and, prepare for next week.

RECAP

Governor Inslee’s 2019-21 Operating Budget was the focus starting on day one.  Charlotte and I had the opportunity to testify about our four funding priorities this session (see earlier blog entries).  Then later on I supported additional revenue sources to fund our financial priorities (new capital gains and B&O increase).

REPORT

I have prepared a Higher Education and K 12 report of the bills that will get hearings next week as well as all the bills that have been filed that will most directly affect our members.  Additionally, I have entered our position and level of interest in the bill.  Our position and interest may change during the session as amendments or other issues arise.

NEXT WEEK

SEBB (School Employees Benefits Board) received plenty of attention this week and will get even more attention next week.  On Wednesday  the 23rd and Thursday the 24th, the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee will have separate work sessions (a thorough presentation and discussion about important issues) on SEBB and the Union Coalition agreement regarding SEBB funding.

 

 

 

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Senate committee considers Governor budget

After yesterday’s House hearing on Governor Inslee’s budget, the Senate Ways and Means Committee took public comment on the same Budget. This gave me the opportunity to deliver the following remarks about PSE’s financial priorities for this session:

PSE enthusiastically supports Governor Inslee’s budget proposal because it responds to our 4 highest priorities this legislative session.

It funds:

….our Central Washington University and Western Washington University Collective Bargaining Agreements

….the Union coalition agreement on PEBB funding

….the Union coalition agreement on SEBB funding (something PSE has sought for 24 years)

….Paraeducator training. However, we look forward to working with the legislature to provide funding for each year of the Budget.

We can’t thank Governor Inslee enough for his leadership on SEBB and Paraeducator training. His Budget makes Washington State a National leader for its recognition of and respect for the important work of classified employees in education. We hope you will join him in supporting classified employees.

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First day of session ends with PSE President Charlotte Shindler

Yesterday, PSE’s President, Charlotte Shindler did a great job representing PSE’s financial objectives for this legislative session.  Here is what she had to say:

 

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Historic legislative session about to begin

Starting this coming Monday, the legislature will have the opportunity to put the final (and most critical) touches on two issues PSE has been lobbying for over the last 24 years: affordable quality health care for all classified employees, and, paraeducator training.  At the same time, they will be taking up consideration of funding for our higher education employees collective bargaining agreements (including their insurance funding), union rights in the Janus environment, and workplace safety.

On health insurance, we were pleased when on December 13, 2018, Governor Inslee’s Budget funded the SEBB coalition insurance agreement.  PSE will be lobbying the legislature to join him and provide the same funding.  There’s much at stake since no State in the Nation is offering the same State funding for school employee insurance benefits for all employees who work 630 hours of more per year.  If the legislature agrees with Governor Inslee, 9,000 classified employees and 30,000 of their dependents are going to get insurance they never could afford  before.

Over the last several years, PSE’s efforts to increase State recognition for the important role paraeducators play on the instructional team has been successful. So much so that the National Center for Paraeducators decided to have their annual conference in Seattle to share with National organizations what we have accomplished.  All of our efforts now come down to convincing the legislature to again agree with Governor Inslee and provide $25 million per year for the next four years to train all 28,000 paraeducators.  If we are successful, paraeducators will get 28 hours of paid training each year over the next four years.  And again, we will be leading the Nation since no State comes anywhere close to providing the paraeducator training Washington will be providing.

However, as you can tell, this may be a historic year.  But it will depend upon PSE’s advocacy efforts over the next 105 days.

I hope you will join us and make history for all classified employees.

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SEBB continues to slog through development process

SEBB (School Employees Benefits Board) has moved to eight hour meetings in order to develop the insurance plans for 140,000 K 12, charter school, and Educational Service District (ESD) employees starting January 1, 2020.  At their recent September 17 meeting, the Board decided to offer a standalone vision plan (rather than an embedded vision plan in a medical plan).  With that decision, the Health Care Authority (HCA) can go out to bid and negotiate plan costs.

Another issue raised, but no decision made, was the placement of K 12 non-medicare retirees (about 4,000 retirees) who are in the PEBB insurance risk pool.  The issue is whether they should be moved into the SEBB actives insurance risk pool.  PSE supports moving them into the SEBB actives insurance pool.

At their August 30 meeting, the Board passed a couple of resolutions approved relating to employee eligibility (the focus for many of these resolutions is part time employees who are close to the 630 hour requirement – 3.5 hours per day for 180 school days.)  For instance, one resolution allows the “stacking” of hours in order to qualify for eligibility (allows employees who work in several positions to combine their hours for eligibility).

If you would like more information on all the resolutions passed, most recent major news, or the comprehensive meeting materials (go to the “briefing book”), go to the SEBB website; it is very helpful and because there is so much going on, regularly updated.

Next meeting: October 4.

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SEBB tentative agreement ratified

Unions representing 98% of the 140,000 K 12 employees have ratified the first ever agreement with Governor Inslee’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) on SEBB funding levels for the 2020 launch of SEBB.  It is too early to publish the details of the agreement but I can say that all of the unions were pleased with the outcome.  We expect details to be available on October 1 and then we wait for OFM to determine if the agreement is financially feasible.  If they determine it is financially feasible, then Governor Inslee must put the required funds into his 2019-21 budget.  Then we have to encourage the legislature to fully fund SEBB.  Many steps to go but we are on the right path.

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State offers SEBB proposal

On August 7 the State made its first proposal to the SEBB negotiating committee.  Though we/I won’t be sharing details of proposals and counter-proposals, I can say that the State’s proposal was responsive and helpful as both sides work to reach a tentative agreement by September 11.

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SEBB continues steady progress

Yesterday, the SEBB (School Employees Benefits Board) spent nearly four hours discussing and developing more of the infrastructure necessary to put plans in place by 2020.  Though they are nowhere near to making final decisions (something that won’t happen until a year from now), they are slowly and deliberately putting together the foundation that the plans will be based upon.  So what did they decide? Mostly, they were deciding naturally occurring eligibility issues like:

… if a school employee’s work pattern is or will be revised such that he or she is now anticipated to work 630 hours for the school year, the school employee establishes eligibility for the employer contribution toward SEBB benefits as of the date the school employee is anticipated to work 630 hours for the school year;

…the employer contribution toward SEBB benefits ends the last day of the month in which the school year ends.  The employer contribution toward SEBB benefits will end earlier than the end of the school year if one of the following occurs: • The SEBB organization terminates the employment relationship.  In this case eligibility for the employer contribution ends the last day of the month in which the employer-initiated termination notice is effective; • The school employee terminates the employment relationship.  In this case, eligibility for the employer contribution ends the last day of the month in which the school employee’s resignation is effective; or • The school employee’s work pattern is revised such that the school employee is no longer anticipated to work 630 hours during the school year.  In this case, eligibility for the employer contribution ends as of the last day of the month in which the change is effective;

…a school employee who is not anticipated to work 630 hours in the school year, but actually does work 630 hours, establishes eligibility for the employer contribution toward SEBB benefits as of the date the school employee worked 630 hours.

…a school employee who wants to enroll his or her dependent is required to provide evidence of the dependent’s eligibility.  If the school employee does not submit the required evidence to verify his or her dependent’s eligibility within the HCA’s required timeframe, the dependent will not be enrolled. • The school employee’s next opportunity to enroll the dependent, if eligible, would be the next eligible open enrollment.

Other areas of discussions but no decisions at this time were:

…how much the Life and AD&D (Accidental Death and Dismemberment), coverage should be;

…how many CAM (chiropractice, acupuncture, and massage) visits should be in the self-insured plan;

…should the HCA (Health Care Authority) recommend moving K 12 retirees into SEBB or keep them in PEBB.

The full meeting package covering all of these topics can be found here.

Next meeting of SEBB is August 30.  Some of the meeting eligibility subjects they will be considering are behind Tab 8 starting on page 160.

 

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No surprises at PEBB meeting

At today’s PEBB meeting, the Board quickly approved the insurance plans and premiums for 2019.  Without any debate, the Board unanimously approved all recommendations made by the HCA (Health Care Authority).  After the votes were concluded, there were congratulatory messages to the HCA for their hard work putting together not only the plans, but, the low premium increases members will be pleased to see.

If you are interested in the rates for the different plans, please review my previous blog.

Other highlights:

…the Board approved an open enrollment period sometime during the first quarter of 2019 for LTD (Long Term Disability) optional insurance so that members may purchase optional LTD or change their benefit waiting period without providing evidence of insurability.

…another presentation, and longer discussion, regarding the impact of moving K 12 Medicare retirees from the PEBB system to the SEBB system (there are more K 12 retirees than state employee retirees in the PEBB Medicare pool.)  This is a difficult issue that may affect both SEBB and PEBB.  As a result, the HCA has decided to have a special SEBB/PEBB joint meeting on September 17 to make sure both boards are getting the same information at the same time, and even more important, each board will share their opinions before HCA finalizes the report to the legislature by December 2018.

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SEBB negotiations get started

With little fanfare and no one taking up the opportunity to watch the riveting (okay maybe it was only interesting) discussion, the SEBB negotiation committee met with Governor Inslee’s Office of Labor Relations last Friday to begin what we hope will be concluded in the next six weeks.  Shawn Lewis, chief spokesperson for the committee, ended the day with a presentation of the union’s proposal (he calls it a supposal).  Though a great deal of it is highly technical, it basically comes down to the following:

…we want the State to fund at least the same rate for K 12 as for State Employees ($1,050 per FTE vs our current rate of $843.97 per FTE).

…we want the State to fully fund K 12 employees who are anticipated to work more than 630 hours in a calendar year (State costs nearly $130 million per year).

…we want the State to fully fund the retiree payment (currently $64.07 per FTE).

…we want the State to provide us 90/10 premium share – employer (State) pays 90 percent of monthly premiums, employee pays 10%.

…we want the State to provide us insurance plans that are at least 88% actuarial value – the higher the value, the less employees have to pay.

We hope to have negotiations concluded by September 11.  Next negotiation session: August 7, Teamsters Hall in Tukwila (see an earlier post for address).

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