BOISE, Idaho — Legislation to allow Idaho public schools to buy into the state's medical and dental group health insurance plans passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee on Monday, putting it one step closer to becoming law.
House Bill 443 would create the public school health insurance participation fund – a dedicated account filled with the one-time amount school districts need to join the state's self-funded health insurance plan.
Legislators have attempted to address teacher health insurance for more than a decade. Schools are permitted to opt into the State Health Insurance Plan — administered by Blue Cross of Idaho — but often do not because of the cost.
Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby, who put forth HB 443, proposed a similar bill during the regular 2021 session. However, it failed in the Senate Education Committee on March 15.
HB 443 recently cleared the House body in a 55-14 vote.
Little's proposed 2022 state budget includes $105 million in general fund dollars to help school districts cover the cost of employee health insurance. The appropriation would increase the $8,400 schools get per employee to $12,500, the equivalent to what the state pays for its employees for health insurance.
Money for the plan would have to be approved by the Legislature's budget-setting committee, the House and the Senate before being deposited into the dedicated fund.
According to the legislation, schools would have until June 2024 to spend any money in the fund. The state would allocate unused dollars to the public education stabilization fund or state general fund.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration. If passed by the Senate body, the bill would go to Gov. Brad Little's Office for approval.