Mortimer Floats $20.3M Plan To Address Insurance Costs

Feb 22, 2017

Senator Dean Mortimer chairs Senate Education and sits on the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.
Credit Idaho Ed News

Sen. Dean Mortimer has a $20.3 million plan to help schools cover health insurance costs.

Education groups are split on the idea. Depending on who you listen to, Mortimer’s plan could help schools attract and keep teachers. Or, it could exacerbate Idaho’s teacher shortage.

At some point, the Senate Education Committee will vote on the idea.

Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, uses some complicated math to construct his Senate Bill 1096.

First, he looks at the amount of money agencies receive to enroll workers in Idaho’s state employee health insurance plan. That number varies year to year. For 2017-18, it’s expected to be $860 per employee.

Then, he looks at the number of state-funded school staff positions, based on Idaho’s 15,199 classroom “support units.” This comes to roughly 23,500 positions.

Multiplying this number by $860 per employee, he arrives at a line item that comes in at roughly $20.3 million.

The $20.3 million doesn’t cover schools’ health insurance costs. It doesn’t even come close. Overall, schools are shelling out about $160 million a year on insurance.

But Mortimer says his bill accomplishes two key objectives. By covering a portion of health insurance costs, the state would free up some money for schools to address their local priorities. And by creating a budget line item, the Legislature is forced to look at school health insurance costs — a topic that he says has been “discussed and dismissed” for too long.

“This is one of the most important pieces of legislation I’ve worked on in education for many years,” Mortimer, an 11-year legislative veteran, said during a Senate Education hearing Monday afternoon.

Testimony was mixed, however.

Click here to read the entire story from Idaho Ed News.