Battle looms over control of teachers' health care

Dec 20, 2011

Washington schools superintendent Randy Dorn is expected Tuesday to endorse a state takeover of K-12 employee health care. But the union that represents Washington teachers is prepared to defend its decades-long role as a provider of health insurance.

The teachers’ union calls it a taxpayer “rip off” and government “boondoggle.” Fiery language to describe a plan to put the state of Washington in the driver’s seat when it comes to K-12 employee health benefits.

Ann Giles is an elementary school librarian in Vancouver. She sits on the union’s health care advisory board.

“I think this is a red herring that is leading us away from the real problems that we need to solve right now,” says Ann Giles.

But a new report commissioned by the state legislature finds the current system costs taxpayers a billion dollars a year. Right now each of Washington’s nearly 300 school districts contracts for health care on it own. The report proposes to consolidate them under one – state managed - system for all 200,000 Washington school employees.

That could save money. But there would also be a cost for the state to start up and run the insurance system and contract with private insurers.