yrvoiceAt the start of the legislative session, a state takeover of the public school employees’ health care system seemed inevitable.

Proving that there is strength in numbers WEA members turned out in force to defeat ESSB 5940. They held back-home rallies, sent more than 60,000 emails and thousands of postcards; devised advertising campaigns and stood on the steps of the Capitol building. The voices of WEA members played an important role in changing the intent of the Bill.

ESSB 5940 never had a hearing, was made public only minutes before senators voted on it and passed most conveniently right before the gavel fell around 4:20 am. Most senators never read the Bill before the vote was taken. As a result these uninformed legislators voted for a Bill that offered less clarity when they had asked for more transparency in a health system for public school employees.

The Bill makes major changes to the $1 billion health care system that covers 200,000 educators and family members. It is unknown what the real impact of the Bill will be to so many public school employees but it is known that changes will occur.

ESSB 5940 doesn’t mandate a state takeover of the K-12 health care system. It does require districts to submit data to the state regarding the district’s compliance with the law. Therefore this Bill could potentially force some school districts into the state health benefit plan (PEBB) if they fail to provide required data.

ESSB 5940 retains a local association’s right to bargain health care as the Bill mandates new goals and premium requirements for insurance offerings. It will definitely complicate local bargaining around benefits and require boatloads of data from providers and school districts. The true impact on school employees and their families won’t be known until the 2012-13 school year, after the Bill has been written into law and analyzed by WEA consultants and staff