Thursday, February 27, 2014

Health Insurance Transparency Act Heard in House.  As scheduled, the House Education Policy Committee heard HF 2180 (Murphy), the Health Insurance Transparency Act, this morning.  The hearing went pretty much as expected.  Representative Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), the bill's chief author, had an author's amendment offered to get the bill in the shape she wanted it, and debate then commenced.  The Republicans offered a number of amendments, with all but one of them failing.  The sole amendment that was accepted came from Representative Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City).  That amendment would expand the gift-giving ban in the bill to include lead teacher negotiators as well as school board members.

The bill has a number of problems, foremost its treatment of self-insured districts that would be still be required to go through the sealed-bid process.  Prior Lake's Julie Cink--Director of Business Affairs--and Matt Mons--Director of Human Resources--reprised their testimony from Wednesday's Senate hearing and it was again well received by the committee.  The requirement that self-insured districts field sealed bids in the same manner as other districts seems redundant and pointless.  These districts have made tough decisions and have consulted their employee groups every step of the way.  To pull the rug on these districts by requiring them to take part in this process is counterproductive.

This bill is likely to cause a lot of headaches.  School districts are not required to take the lowest bid, as the lowest bid can be based on a price/product combination that does not fit the district's needs.  Therefore, the only purpose the bill may serve is to flood districts with bids from the Public Employees Insurance Plan (PEIP) that may be show a lower cost, but not be tied to district needs.  The result will likely be public relations nightmares for school districts.

The other point that still remains problematic is the $1 million subsidy that the state will provide for PEIP.  This will create an unfair advantage for PEIP and simply allow them to undercut private providers.  That just doesn't make much sense.

This bill will be moving fast in both houses of the Legislature. The Senate companion, SF 1835 (Sieben), passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday and will likely be heard in the Senate Education Policy Committee next week.  HF 2180's next stop will be the House Commerce Committee and it also will likely be heard next week.  There will be plenty of opportunity to amend the bill and hopefully make it more palatable, but those changes won't be made without pressure from outside the Capitol. I urge all of you, especially self-insured districts, to make your concerns known.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The 16 self insured districts in the state are vehemently opposed to this bill, and have raised the following concerns with legislators:
- HITA provides no guidance for the disbursement of millions $ in reserves should these districts be forced to move to fully insured plans. There is NO LEGAL precedent, either, which has the very real potential to result in protracted costly legal battles, which would likely exceed any premium or reserve savings.
- HITA will unnecessarily burden self-insured systems with higher expenses, and an increase in administrative time and expense. Forcing self insured districts to "shop" for group insurance coverage that may not be utilized or needed is a waste of time and expense.
- Districts that moved to self insured plans were largely driven by the ability to manage insurance practices - limiting carriers from buying a district's business in the short run an then significantly raising rates in the future - which provided a more stable long-term insurance solution, and has resulted in significant savings over time and limited skyrocketing premium increases.
- Self insured districts have on average experienced annual premium increases of between 1.5%-4% compared to the statewide average of 7%-10%.
- By containing costs and managing savings, self insured districts are able to keep millions of $ in the classroom that would otherwise been paid out in premiums and expenses associated with the process of bidding on new insurance every two years.
- Self insured districts were exempt from previous attempts to legislate a statewide health insurance plan for all school systems primarily because of the legal wrangling likely to occur over reserves disbursement.
- If mandated to go from self insured to fully insured - a move where we find no evidence of occurring among solvent school districts or businesses - we lose out ability to: 1) sustain savings that have limited premium increases and contributed to financial stability (structural balance); 2) employees will see a loss or reduction in benefits; and 3) there is no going back to self insured status.