Wash. Approves Changes to K-12 Health Insurance

April 17, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Washington state Legislature approved changes to health insurance benefits for K-12 school employees that are intended to improve transparency and help those who pay the most for coverage.

Under the measure, districts will have to start easing the burden of workers now paying a disproportionate share of their covered family members’ premiums, with a specific target to be set in 2015, reports the Associated Press. At present, some families pay upward of $1,300 per month in premiums, whereas some workers who cover only themselves pay no monthly premiums. Under the measure, every covered employee will be required to do so.  

According to the AP, John Williams, an expert on K-12 insurance plans with the Health Care Authority, said that the new calculus will have to involve raising premiums for individuals in order to help bring down costs for those with dependents while avoiding excessive new expenses to the state.  

The bill also compels districts and their benefit providers to hand over information on how the health care dollars _ including roughly $1 billion in annual taxpayer money _ are spent, aggregated information on who is covered and proof of efforts to keep costs in check.  

The information is to be provided annually to the state’s insurance commissioner starting next year. In 2015, the state will rank districts by performance, reward top districts with grants to reduce workers’ copayments and deductibles and use the data to weigh whether to again consider consolidation.  

Failure to comply with the new rules would force school districts to place their employees’ health insurance in the hands of the state, the news report said.  

Whereas an earlier K-12 health insurance overhaul plan would have consolidated workers’ insurance under a single entity run by the state’s Health Care Authority, the new rules keep the 295 school districts in charge until at least 2016.