Thursday, February 29, 2024

Bill to Protect PEBB Benefits Passes Senate Committee

Bill to Protect PEBB Benefits Passes Senate Health & Long-term Care Committee with Amendment

On Friday, February 17, the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee passed Substitute Senate Bill 5169, legislation to protect retirees who get health insurance through the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB).

The bill, which was introduced by Senator Sam Hunt (D, Olympia), will require the Health Care Authority (HCA) to conduct listening sessions to learn what retirees value in health insurance plans.  These findings will be used to make plan decisions and will be submitted to the legislature in a report.

The bill originally included a provision to require PEBB to continue to offer Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare, the most popular health insurance plan among PEBB retirees.  This provision was removed via an amendment sponsored by Senator June Robinson (D, Everett).  In speaking to the amendment, Senator Robinson said that due to the fluidity of health plans, the Legislature should avoid writing laws that required specific health insurance plans to be offered.

In June 2022, HCA and the PEBB attempted to eliminate UMP Classic Medicare.  This was done without consulting or informing the thousands of retired public employees who belong to the plan.  RPEC led an opposition effort that resulted in over 300 retirees protesting the plans discontinuation.  Retirees won the day, and PEBB agreed to offer the plan at least through 2024 and to conduct listening sessions and public forums to enable retirees to share information about plan features and their healthcare needs.

Having passed the Health & Long-Term Care Committee, the bill must now receive a public hearing and be passed by the Senate Ways & Means Committee by Friday, February 24th.

We thank all RPEC leaders and members who have reached out to their senators to urge support for this bill.  If the bill does not receive a hearing and executive action by February 24th, it doesn’t mean that the bill is dead.  This priority, increased accountability for the Health Care Authority, could also be carried as a proviso during the budget act development process.

Stay tuned.  To keep up to date on what is happening with RPEC’s legislative priorities, please attend the weekly Legislative Update meetings, held each Friday from 2-3 p.m. The link is available on the RPEC calendar at www.rpecwa.org.

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