Washington state school employees need insurance make-over

School Insurance System Needs OverhaulA new report from the Auditor’s Office of Washington says that the insurance for the state’s school employees should be streamlined so that it will be more fair and cost effective. The state auditor, Brian Sonntag, said that the system is overly complex. More than 1,000 different funds pay for 200 coverage plans offered by only 10 insurers. In the current system, some employees pay no premiums while others pay over $500 a month and there is little to differentiate the two.

The cost of health benefits for 100,000 school employees across the state was more than $1.2 billion in 2010. 64% of that was paid for by taxpayers with districts covering the rest.

Rick Chisa, representative for the Public School Employees of Washington union, said that he hopes that more affordable health insurance can be provided and that the system should be more balanced.

The report suggest streamlining the system by cutting back the amount of different funds and establishing bigger pools of money that will reduce administrative costs and make the system more transparent. Auditors also recommend that coverage options for employees be standardized so that premiums are based on the level of coverage they buy rather than their position in the system.

Another proposal is to restructure employee health insurance, moving to a statewide program that is governed by a board of regulators.

Some unions have criticized the report as being too simplistic in its approach to this issue, while others are happy that the government has finally decided to look into the problem.

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