It would appear there’s now some indication that there is no free lunch on the bill to reduce an expected increase in school employee health insurance. A wrinkle has slowed the call for a special session.
A note from Matt DeCample, the governor’s spokesman:
We got word this morning that EBD has received new bill drafts from BLA on insurance that impact the matrix and potentially Lakeview in regards to the FICA money. They aren’t the bills that were circulated and agreed to by the membership, and the governor of course isn’t going to support anything that could run us afoul of the Courts. So, we’re on standby while everyone figures out what has happened.
In short: If you take money school districts are using for other purposes and make them transfer it to employee insurance payments, it could affect their ability to deliver the equal and adequate education ordered by the state Supreme Court in the Lakeview case. Somebody brilliant called it “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” just a few days ago.
It never made sense that there was a way to take money from school districts without impacting something.
The problem from the start here has been the legislature’s refusal to deal with the gross inequality between state employee and school employee health insurance. State employees — a group that includes legislators — get a bigger state contribution and much lower costs. That has driven people out of school insurance and it has been in a death spiral. You don’t fix it by making still fewer people eligible (by eliminating part-time employees and spouses of employees), reducing the coverage and increasing co-pays. Certainly you don’t improve it by refusing to spend an additional state dime on it.
So here we are.
PS — Fort Smith Supt. Benny Gooden pointed out in a letter I posted yesterday how this “fix” punishes school districts with high participation in insurance because they contribute more to insurance and use some of the savings the state wants to take for salaries.