Tom Talks Legislative Preview 2019

Medical insurance expert and consultant with Financial Benefit Services, Tom Sawyer, gives us insight into the three bills in currently in Texas state legislation that could potentially affect school districts.

Welcome to the first installment of Tom Talks. This series features Tom Sawyer, an endlessly knowledgeable member of the FBS team with 48 years of experience in the insurance industry, 28 years of that at FBS.

One topic Tom is known to know entirely too much information about is health insurance, a topic he will be taking on in this inaugural episode. More specifically, he will be detailing changes to Texas health insurance coverage for educator employers, proposed in three bills, SB1654, HB2097, and SB1359.

Healthcare options for education employers in Texas are not plentiful and tend to be even more rigid. These proposed pieces of legislation could completely change what that looks like over the next few years.

Here are some highlights from the podcast:

What is the goal of SB1654? (2:15) “To allow zip codes to come into play. The further west you go and east you go, healthcare is less expensive, and so there [were] arguments made in the past that, why should they be paying higher premiums when their zip code permits their hospital organizations and doctors to charge much less for their services.” He says later (9:29), “the bill is merely saying that they want each one of the twenty Education Service Centers to do their own feasibility study.”

What is the timeframe for the study? (12:38) “Each one of the service centers must report back by January 31st of 2020.

What does SB1359 propose? (15:30) “It’s creating a pilot program…It will allow a school district to work within the constraints of TRS ActiveCare…but going out there are doing their own [feasibility] study…and show that they were able to hold cost down within that one school district.”

What districts would be eligible to conduct studies under SB1359? (17:23) “It would only allow the second largest school district of student population in a county of 1.8 million occupants…It primarily addresses the four large metropolitan areas of Texas, one being Dallas-Forth Worth, two being Austin, three being San Antonio, and four being Houston.” There is an additional specification saying (18:03) “there must be an adjoining county with a population of 2.2 million occupants.”

When would eligible districts be able to start their study? (19:25) September 30th of 2019…They have to notify the TRS trustees that they wish to be a pilot program…Should they be granted that status, the program would then start on September 1st of 2020.” They would then have to commit for quite some time as (24:20) “they are out for a 10 year period.”

What is HB2097 looking to do? (26:42) “It is the companion bill of 1359, so it’s just authored through the house, rather than the senate…Everything is a ditto.” It does have one difference, “strength in numbers,” as it has five authors, where 1359 has one.

Given the complicated nature of this installment’s subject matter, we would highly recommend listening to Tom’s insights in this edition.