Bill aims to force schools to use state insurance

SEATTLE — A proposal to force teachers and other school employees to buy their health insurance through the state system is one senator’s attempt to help save Washington school districts some money. But the state teachers union says the idea isn’t likely to save anyone anything.

Sen. Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham, said school administrators in his district have told him that his idea would save them thousands of dollars a year.

“It’s the same plan the governor of Washington is on. We have a very good health care plan,” Brandland said. “I’m not trying to sell something that I’m not part of.”

The senator believes the proposal also would save the state money because putting more people in the state health care authority could result in lower costs for everyone.

A spokesman for the state teachers union disagrees.

Several studies have been done on other proposals to move school employees into the state health insurance pool and each found the insurance consolidation didn’t save anyone money, said Rich Wood of the Washington Education Association.

A 2004 study by the Washington Office of Financial Management found school districts might save money by moving their employees into the state insurance system but any savings would be offset by the cost and difficulty of making the switch.

The study found the only benefits of moving school employees into the plan would be standardization of benefits and data collection and the cost benefit to the other participants in the state plan, because the state could negotiate lower rates with more members.

Teachers and other school employees currently negotiate with their district about health insurance and when they are given options, the state plan is often among the choices.

In many cases, it would cost teachers more to buy into the state plan than to use their other options, Wood said Thursday.

Brandland acknowledged that individual teachers might pay more but said he believes the idea would make health insurance less expensive for families, because the state plan more heavily subsidizes family premiums.

“From our perspective, there are other more important issues in terms of school funding and finding ways to mitigate the cuts to education,” Wood said. “We just don’t think this is any kind of solution.”

Neither Wood nor the senator could say whether Brandland’s proposal was going anywhere in the Legislature — it passed the Senate as a bill calling for a study of the idea and has been sitting in the House Ways and Means Committee since March 11.

Brandland said he was hoping the bill might evolve into more than a study before the Legislature adjourns. He expects a hearing closer to the end of the session.

All the cost savings information Brandland has gathered is anecdotal. For instance, the Bellingham School District uses hundreds of thousands of levy dollars annually to supplement the district’s state allocation for employee health insurance, he said.

Neither Brandland nor Wood could offer a figure for total statewide costs for school employee health insurance, because the information is not reported by the school districts to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read