|By Ty Beaver, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.|
Now, though, he said they're considering retiring earlier and moving to Bickenheuser's home state of
By his understanding, Bickenheuser said it would cost him and his wife an additional
"(That's) a big piece of change," he said.
Senate Bill 6442 is in the
Teachers say the bill is an unnecessary government intrusion into their health care that would cost taxpayers and districts more money.
"It isn't that we have this amazing Cadillac plan," said
Classified employees -- custodians, school secretaries, nurses and para-educators -- and their representatives said the bill is necessary to level the playing field for all school employees and prepare for health care costs that are only going up.
"Classified employees are the canary in the coal mine," said
Tri-City school district officials, however say they either don't yet know of the possible effects of the legislation or don't expect it to change their budgets.
"It doesn't look like this bill would be of any savings or cost to the district," said
Currently, teachers and classified employees and their unions negotiate with their school districts for health care coverage.
For teachers, monthly costs depend on the level of coverage they want and how many people are covered under that plan. The lowest cost plan costs from
The school district's share of that depends on how many years of service the employee has with the district and their salary level.
The cumulative cost to the state for the hundreds of different health care plans is estimated at
If approved, SB 6442 would pool all public school employees into one group and have them all fall under one health insurance plan. The plan would be administered by a new state agency, the School Employees Benefits Board.
Lawmakers, including state Sens.
The Public School Employees, or PSE, supports the legislation. Meier said some classified employees pay
Additionally, the pool of classified employees contributing to health care is smaller and fluctuates as people drop or take on coverage, meaning those employees don't necessarily pay the same amount each month, she said.
Proponents also claim the bill would make coverage more affordable in the longterm for all school employees.
Teachers, their local unions and the
Morrow said costs also would go up for many teachers, as the cost of individual coverage would increase and married teachers working in the same district would no longer be able to maintain individual accounts.
She and others pointed out that teachers currently cost the state less in health care costs than other state employees.
A report on the proposal by the
However, districts would no longer receive a set amount of money per employee from the state to cover health care costs. That amount would vary depending on the employee's selected coverage level, leaving districts on the hook, at least at first, for covering unforseen costs of employee care.
Another concern: It's not entirely known how the new plan would affect premiums. And Gow said it is not clear what benefits a single plan would cover.
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|Source:||McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|