Dave Munson has driven a school bus in Yakima for 27 years and has seen his insurance rates rise almost every year. To cover his family of five, he pays $1,164 every month in health insurance premiums. To help make ends meet, Dave has taken a second job and has had to drop his wife from his plan.
Ken and Nicole Flournoy both work for the Bethel School District and have also seen their rates rise to unaffordable amounts in recent years. Ken had to reenlist in the National Guard to make sure that his family was covered.
Unfortunately these stories aren’t unique for the hundreds of thousands of public school employees and their families that get insurance coverage through their school districts.
Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, the approximately 300 insurance plans for the 295 school districts throughout Washington will be consolidated into one, eliminating the fees paid to private insurance brokers which would be reinvested to keep costs down and preserve benefits levels.
“This is about fairness,” said Hobbs, who received an award from the Public School Employees Union on Monday for his work on this bill. “It simply does not make sense to penalize people for wanting to cover their families as part of their insurance plan. Reform will help drive down costs and ensure that people don’t have to decide between coverage and the essentials.”
The current system favors individual coverage over family coverage, which can run upwards of $1,300 per month. Many public school employees – people such as bus drivers, janitors and lunch room workers – spend half their salaries on health insurance coverage. Without reform, these rates will only get worse with 10 percent health insurance inflation expected over the next two years.
“In this day and age a family can’t go without insurance,” Ken Flournoy said. “But every year we’ve watched our premiums go up. There comes a point when you have to choose between cutting out the necessities or paying for insurance. That’s a decision no family should have to make.”
The State Auditor and Health Care Authority estimate that a consolidated system could save tens of millions of dollars per year. A similar plan implemented in Oregon three years ago has saved $150 million.
You can watch video of Hobbs address PSE members below