K-12 health care update for WEA members: New system on the way
The Washington State Health Care Authority will soon be sending educators information about the School Employees Benefits Board (SEBB), which is the new state-run health care insurance system for K-12 school employees and their dependents.
Here’s what WEA members should know about the new health care system:
- If the Legislature votes to fund the new K-12 health care agreement negotiated between Gov. Inslee and a coalition of education unions, the new system will begin in January of 2020. It will replace the current system in which K-12 educators’ health insurance is negotiated at the local district level.
- The Legislature can either approve or reject the negotiated health care agreement – legislators cannot amend or change it. No one can predict with 100 percent certainty what will happen, but there is no reason to believe the Legislature will reject the agreement. (The original law passed with bipartisan support.)
- Initial legislative budget proposals are expected in March, which will be the first sign of the Legislature’s action on the tentative agreement. The Legislature has until April 28 to pass a new two-year state budget within the regular session. If the budget is not done by then, special sessions will be required. That means we probably won’t know until at least the last week of April whether the Legislature funds the new K-12 health care system. (The final days of the session coincide with WEA Representative Assembly.)
- The state health care authority is negotiating with private insurance companies to determine which plans will be available to K-12 school employees in the new system. A variety of insurance plans will be offered, including Premera, Aetna, Kaiser Permanente and Providence. Many options will be available, although those options may vary by region.
- Until the insurance plans are determined and the new system is funded by the state, we don’t know how individual educators and their families will be affected by the new system. In general, part-time school employees and those with dependents likely will pay significantly less than they currently do. Individuals with no dependents may pay a bit more.
- Until the insurance plans are determined, we also won’t know exactly what co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles will be, but here is a draft from the health care authority that is subject to change. While these can’t be relied upon as final numbers, they do show those costs will vary by plan. The final rates and plans, including which plans will be available in specific counties, will be available in the summer.
- Educators who have access to insurance from another source may opt out of insurance through the new state-run K-12 health care system. That includes educators who are currently covered by a spouse or partner’s insurance.
- Any school employee anticipated to work 630 hours a year is eligible (an average of 3.5 hours a day). It’s the same whether you’re full-time or part-time, certificated or classified, instructional or administrative, from a little district or a big one.
- Health insurance spreads the cost and risk across a large pool of people. The new K-12 health care system is expected to cover as many as 300,000 people, including thousands of school employees who could not afford insurance previously.