The IEA wholeheartedly supports this legislation and lobbied tirelessly on its members’ behalf to make it law. In fact, the bill got its start at the IEA Delegate Assembly in April of last year. Delegates called for the IEA to “develop and or support acceptable legislation facilitating the ability of educators/school districts to affordably opt-in to the state health insurance plan.”
The association’s lobby team worked closely with the Governor’s office over the summer and fall to draft the legislation and lobbied on your behalf to make it part of Gov. Brad Little’s historic education recommendations this year. The state’s $1.9 billion budget surplus made moving the plan forward hard to argue against.
In previous attempts to move districts to the state insurance plans, the proposals took money out of anticipated increases in career ladder allocations to afford the move. The IEA argued that higher pay and better insurance was not mutually exclusive proposition, and we pushed the state to do both.
This is an extraordinary step forward for educators across Idaho, but especially those in rural communities where health insurance costs often outstrip your modest educator salaries. This new law will leave educators with more money in their pockets at the end of the month.
HB443 establishes a fund for districts to access the buy-in/enrollment fees needed to join the state health insurance plan. It costs approximately $2,000 per individual to enroll in the plan and the fund outlined in HB443 is created to cover the cost of enrollment on behalf of districts.
This law is part of a series of bills needed to provide funding to the school districts that will allow them to purchase health insurance for all district employees through the state health insurance plan. The appropriation legislation to fund the legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. The additional $4,000 needed to bring the state’s obligation for health insurance to $12,500 per FTE will be included in the Teachers Appropriation Bill being drafted by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. This bill is one of seven appropriation bills JFAC drafts that address education funding. Specifically, the additional $4,000 will be placed in the discretionary line item.
Lawmakers’ overwhelming votes in favor of this fund are widely seen as a bellwether for the support of the entire series of bills required.
The IEA is aware that there is legislation drafted to direct districts to use between 80% and 95% of the designated discretionary money for insurance on insurance. Many superintendents and business managers told lawmakers that they had not been spending the original allocation on health insurance, so legislators could force districts to use that money for insurance.
No. As the legislation is written, it would simply provide districts with more resources for putting their employees on the state employee insurance plan. As before, school districts have flexibility on how to spend the appropriation. The Governor’s recommendation is that it be spent to lower the out-of-pocket expense district employees spend on health insurance (although there are some who are suggesting separate legislation to mandate that it be spent on educator insurance). The result should be that educators have quality, affordable health insurance and more money in their paycheck on payday.
It costs approximately $12,500 annually to provide a state employee with health insurance. Previously, the state provided approximately $8,500 per classroom unit (the number of certified educators and paraprofessionals needed to support a single classroom) for the districts to use to pay for health insurance. This legislation makes up that difference by providing another $4,000 annually for district insurance expenses. In other words, the state will pay the full cost of providing school district employees with health insurance through the state employee insurance plan. It is each district’s prerogative to use the money for this expense or not.
Lawmakers’ overwhelming votes in favor of HB443 are widely seen as a bellwether for the support of the entire series of bills required to provide educators with quality, more affordable health care insurance.
Yes. However, there is a two-year year window for districts to make the move if they want to use the resources established in HB443. The fund holding the $75.5 million in one-time money to help districts pay for the transition to the state plan expires in 2024. Also, this funding is “first-come, first-served,” so when it is gone there will not be money available to help the transition, unless the Legislature decides to put more money in the fund in the coming years.
If a district decides to move to the state plan after the expiration of HB443, they will have to cover the enrollment cost on their own.
Those hired before 2009 will be able to go onto state plan; those hired after 2009 will be able to use their sick days to purchase insurance.
If someone was hired before 2009 and their district moves to the state plan, must this person then buy their insurance from the state plan? Or do they have a choice?
If they purchase insurance through their district and the district moves to the state plan, then their insurance will move with the district. Otherwise, the educator will need to make other arrangements.
The Leadership Premiums are being repurposed to help offset the cost of the increased discretionary money that will be used to pay for health insurance. Districts will no longer receive funds from the state in the Leadership Premium line item. That does not mean that districts cannot repurpose other money to keep the premiums.
Districts will receive the $4,000 per support unit, regardless of size. If a larger district hires more employees above their support unit allocation, they will need to make up the difference from another funding source.