Insurance

SEBB threatened by another bill

We are keeping an eye on HB 2408 written by Representative and Chair of the House Health Care Committee, Eileen Cody. This bill has moved to the rules committee although has not been picked for a floor vote yet. This bill proposes to combine the uninsured market in Washington with our yet to be implemented SEBB system. Representative Cody believes that combining these markets will help satisfy requirements of the ACA (Affordable Care Acdt) and help insure all Washingtonians. However, PSE, WEA and WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Association) all oppose this bill because it will most likely complicate SEBB and drive up costs for school employees. Combining these markets also has the potential to scare away potential healthcare plan bidders. This week I had the opportunity to speak to my representatives, Sherry Appleton,  and Representative Drew Hansen’s legislative assistant about why we are opposed to this bill. It is interesting to me as a Democrat to lobby in opposition to this bill. This experience proved to me that being part of a union is not about labels…it’s about labor!

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SEBB approved by Senate committee

So far, PSE’s effort to preserve and strengthen SEBB has made progress.  Yesterday, the Senate Ways and Means committee approved the “fix-it” bill, 6241.  There were a variety of changes but the most important for us was to allow school districts to buy optional insurance plans not provided by SEBB (e.g., cancer insurance), and, allow school districts to have a lower eligibility threshold than 630 hours but they will have to pay for the cost as an enhancement to basic education funding.

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SEBB in House committee

Last week, I know I’m late (too much going on – don’t forget I am field services director and government relations director), the House Appropriations committee held a work session (an opportunity for legislators to be informed what SEBB is, why it is, etc.) along with a hearing on the same four bills (House versions) heard the day before in the Senate.  HB 2438, 2655, 2657, 2755 received a certain amount of debate but it was largely led by WEA, PSE, and WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Association – school board members).

All of our testimony was largely the same as the previous day with PSE supporting 2438 because its goal was to preserve and strengthen SEBB.  I also informed legislators that PSE was working with WEA on changes that reflect some of the improvements they are suggesting in their bill (HB 2657).

Here is the hearing so you can make up your own minds how the issue is developing:

 

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SEBB debate in Senate committee

Last night the Senate Ways and Means committee heard 4 SEBB bills: 6241, 6286, 6288, and 6461.  PSE’s priority on SEBB this legislative session is to preserve and strengthen SEBB.  This afternoon, the House Appropriations committee will be having a work session on SEBB  and a hearing on the same 4 bills.

I testified in support of 6241 because this is the bill from the Health Care Authority (HCA) and is sponsored by Senator Hobbs, our champion on SEBB.

6286 will add an administrator and school board member to the board.  I testified that we would support a school board member but not an administrator since there already is an administrator on the board.

I testified in opposition to 6288 because it will weaken SEBB by allowing certain school districts to be exempt from SEBB.   But, I also commented that it has other features that will strengthen SEBB (e.g., allow school districts to pay for optional benefits not provided by SEBB).

We opposed 6461 because it will severely weaken SEBB by allowing all school districts with 1,000 or more employees to be exempt from SEBB (90,000 of the 144,000 K 12 employees would be exempt).

Here is the TVW video of the hearing:

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SEBB hearings next week

Both the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees will be hearing SEBB bills next week.   All of the bills noted in earlier entries will be heard plus two additional bills recently introduced.  The recent additions, 2755 & 6461, would allow school districts with more than 1,000 employees to be exempt from SEBB if they meet SEBB criteria.

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More SEBB bills introduced

Besides the two “fix-it” bills described yesterday, four more bills were introduced today to change SEBB.  Two bills were introduced to increase the SEBB membership by adding a school board member and a school administrator: 6286 & 2655.  Two bills, 6288 & 2657, were introduced to:

—allow certain school districts to not be in SEBB;

—require funding parity with State employees;

—increase SEBB membership by adding another classified and certificated representative;

—allow school districts to pay for a lower eligibility criteria than 630 hours and,

—allow school districts to offer optional benefits not provided by SEBB.

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Bills to perfect SEBB – taking financial pressure off single coverage employees

SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board) insurance plans for all K 12, ESD (Educational School Districts), and charter school employees, was approved in the 2017 legislative session.  This comprehensive change to K 12 insurance plans will take place on January 1, 2020.  Not surprisingly, there is a great deal of preparation that has to be undertaken to make the change in 2020 as positive and effective as possible.

The Health Care Authority (HCA), the state agency responsible for implementing SEBB has recognized that the law implementing SEBB needs to be perfected.  Senator Hobbs and Representative Cody are introducing “fix-it” bills developed by the HCA in the House and Senate.  The Senate bill is 6241, the House bill is 2438.  

The most significant changes in the bills are:

…move forward the date for data to be provided HCA 8 months to April 1, 2018.

…clarify that the employee payment for insurance premiums for family and single coverage be 3:1 (not 1:1).  What that means is employee payment for family insurance premiums would be $3 for each $1 that employees who buy single coverage would pay not $1 for each $1 paid by singles.  Without this change, it would be an unfair financial burden on employees who sign up for single coverage.

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Day 1 starts with hopes of early conclusion

With democratic control of the House and Senate, leaders of both chambers are expressing hopes that they will not only finish on time (March 8) but will finish early.  Since the last several years have seen one if not up to three extra special sessions, everyone hopes they are right.

Yesterday, I testified in support of Governor Inslee’s supplemental budget.  I supported his effort to comply with the Washington Supreme Court’s demand that the State start funding their substantial increase to basic education salaries starting September 1, 2018, not September 1, 2019.  Further, I highlighted his addition of $13 million to implement the new SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board) insurance plans for K 12.

Additionally, I highlighted two areas that PSE will be advocating for this legislative session:

—Add $500,000 each year of the two year budget to update general paraeducator training modules and develop special education and transitional bilingual paraeducator professional development training modules.

—Clarify what the legislature meant last year when they passed EHB 2242 with the direction that we can negotiate “district average salary for classified employees” up to the amount of the school district’s state allocation for those salaries.  How this is calculated is critical to determining how much we have available to negotiate “market based wages”.    For instance, will the average salary be calculated for all classified employees or just basic education employees?  If its all classified employee, in most circumstances, we should be able to negotiate higher salary increases.

 

 

 

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Governor Inslee Budget Fixes K12 Compensation Problem

Governor Inslee just released his supplemental budget requests.  Though there are a variety of K12 and higher education budget changes he recommends, the most significant was his proposal to move forward by one year the State’s funding for K 12 salaries; a direct response to the Washington State Supreme Court’s recent McCleary order.  The cost of this change ($759 million dollars) will be paid for by reducing the $1 billion rainy day fund (and possibly a carbon tax).  If the legislature goes along with Inslee’s proposal, the State will have completed all of the steps required by the Supreme Court to fully fund basic education.

Other significant changes he has proposed:

  1. $17.2 million for high school and beyond programs for 7th and 8th graders, including $3.8 million to hire more middle school counselors;
  2. $12.8 million to increase Opportunity Scholarships;
  3. $5.2 million retiree remittance adjustment ($68.67 increased to $69.57);
  4. K 12 2018-19 insurance funding increased from $840 per FTE to $845.18;
  5. $20 million increase to special education funding;
  6. Increase from $8 million to $21 million the funding necessary to implement SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board).

What is the likely effect if the legislature increases funding for classified employee salaries in the 2018-19 school year instead of the 2019-20 school year?  The 36.5% increase (from $34,180 to $46,647) starting September 1, 2018, sounds great but remember this is an allocation increase that is limited by other laws (primarily EHB 2242 passed in the 2017 legislative session).  That law limited our access to the increased funding for classified employee salary allocations over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school year.  If the legislature agrees to raise the allocation as proposed by Governor Inslee, this law will also have to be changed in the 2018 legislative session.  PSE will be advocating to increase the allocation as proposed by the Governor and change the law to do no harm to classified employees ability to get reasonable cost of living adjustments and market based salaries.

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Fall updates on affordable health insurance for school employees

PSE Member Patty Estes was appointed to the state board that will "design and approve insurance benefit plans for school employees, and establish eligibility criteria for participation in these plans." (Washington State Health Care Authority)

PSE Member Patty Estes was appointed to the state board that will “design and approve insurance benefit plans for school employees, and establish eligibility criteria for participation in these plans.” (Washington State Health Care Authority)

Greetings from the School Employees Benefit Board (SEBB). I wanted to keep my fellow PSE members as informed as possible on our progress in creating the benefit program we will all fall under in 2020.

The first meeting of the School Employees Benefits Board was held on October 23, 2017. In this meeting, we discussed values, goals, and visions of the board. We all seemed to be on the same page as to why we are there. We want to take care of all school employees, certified and classified alike. This is a great opportunity for us to have a voice in benefit plan selection and eligibility requirements. While the Legislature is still working on defining and filling in some of the gaps in House Bill 2242, we are hitting the ground running.

On November 6, 2017, we held our second meeting. We heard from Dr. Dan Lessler (Chief Medical Officer for the HealthCare Authority), who spoke about the state of our healthcare system in the United States compared to other industrialized nations. Dr. Lessler spoke about the need for change in that system, and explained the importance of changing from volume-based payments to value-based payments. We discussed the importance of “whole person care” in the work we are doing. Dr. Lessler spoke to us all about the Accountable Care Program/Network that is currently in place under some benefit plans in the PEBB (Public Employees Benefits Board) program.

We will begin looking at benefit plans within the next few meetings. I would like to invite any feedback from you about current benefit plans, what works, what doesn’t, any ideas to improve, etc.

The board has had a lot of questions that we have been unable to get answered with the state of the House Bill 2242’s ambiguity. The Legislature will need to fill in the gaps before we will know some of these answers. Until then, we are preparing for all K-12 school districts, charter schools, and educational service districts to be required to switch benefit plan coverage to the SEBB program we create.

Our next meeting will be December 11, 2017 at 1pm at the HealthCare Authority in Olympia, WA. For more information, agenda, meeting minutes and board member contact information, click here. I would like to encourage anyone with feedback for me or any of the board members to contact us or attend a meeting (in person or via phone). Any questions and/or comments are welcome and appreciated.

Thank you,

Patty Estes
Eatonville School District
P.O. Box 1364
Eatonville, WA 98328
C 360-621-9610
p.estes.sebb@gmail.com

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