SEB Board approves resolution on inclusion of paid hours, reviews open enrollment

Tue, 01/28/2020

On January 27, 2020, the School Employees Benefits Board (SEB Board) met for the first time since the SEBB Program began offering benefits to employees of Washington’s school districts and charter schools, and represented employees of educational service districts (ESDs) on January 1, 2020.

Two members left the Board and a new member has been appointed by the Governor. Sean Corry, of Seattle, who represented employee health benefits policy and administration; and Patty Estes, of Puyallup, who represented classified employees, have both stepped down. Corry’s position is currently vacant. Estes’ position representing classified employees has been filled by Dawna Hansen-Murray of Yelm. Hansen-Murray is a library technician at Yelm Middle School.

Policy resolutions

The SEB Board approved the following resolutions:

Inclusion of paid hours (Policy resolution 2020-01)

Effective January 1, 2020, all hours for which a school employee receives compensation from a SEBB organization during an approved leave (e.g., sick leave, personal leave, bereavement leave) or a paid holiday must be included when determining how many hours a school employee is anticipated to work, or did work, in the school year.

Benefits eligibility after returning to work (Policy resolution 2020-02)

Effective January 1, 2020, school employees who return from approved leave without pay will maintain or establish eligibility for the employer contribution if their work schedule, had it been in effect at the start of the school year, would have resulted in the employee being anticipated to work the minimum hours to meet SEBB eligibility in the school year. A school employee who regains eligibility under this policy establishes eligibility for the employer contribution toward SEBB benefits as of the date they returned from approved leave, and coverage will become effective the first day of the month following the employee’s return to work.

Meeting recap

The following information was presented to the SEB Board. To get all of the materials presented at the January 27 SEB Board meeting, view the briefing book.

Scott Palafox, Employees and Retirees Benefits (ERB) Division deputy director, and Renee Bourbeau, ERB Benefits Accounts section manager, gave a presentation on the preparation and activities leading up to and during SEBB’s first annual open enrollment and the takeaways from the experience.

Preparation highlights included:

  • ERB Outreach and Training (O&T) held 19 training events for more than 600 benefits administrators from 308 organizations, as well as multiple webinars.
  • O&T conducted 20 benefits fairs for employees with a total attendance of more than 10,000.
  • The SEBB Program’s Virtual Benefits Fair had approximately 30,000 visits.
  • ALEX — the SEBB Program’s online benefits advisor — had approximately 137,700 total visits.
  • The contact center offered assistance and technical support for SEBB My Account (the online enrollment portal) to benefits administrators and employees, and received almost 13,700 calls.
  • The HCA received other assistance from many external stakeholders that contributed to a successful open enrollment.
  • Enrollment in supplemental long-term disability (LTD) insurance was low. Enhancements have been made to SEBB My Account, and a special enrollment period is planned for May 2020, in response.
  • A planned enhancement to SEBB My Account would allow subscribers to make their plan elections for dependents before uploading their dependent verification documents. During last year’s open enrollment, dependents could not be enrolled in coverage without dependent verification documents uploaded.
  • Benefits administrators and school employees found several options and tools helpful, including: automated phone messaging systems; computer lab sessions with benefit administrators helping employees with SEBB My Account; webinars; SEBB Update email newsletters; Facebook Live sessions; and targeted communications.
  • SEBB My Account needs additional functionality to inform subscribers that their enrollment is complete and other notifications.

Takeaways included:

  • Enrollment in supplemental long-term disability (LTD) insurance was low. Enhancements have been made to SEBB My Account, and a special enrollment period is planned for May 2020, in response.
  • A planned enhancement to SEBB My Account would allow subscribers to make their plan elections for dependents before uploading their dependent verification documents. During last year’s open enrollment, dependents could not be enrolled in coverage without dependent verification documents uploaded.
  • Benefits administrators and school employees found several options and tools helpful, including: automated phone messaging systems; computer lab sessions with benefit administrators helping employees with SEBB My Account; webinars; SEBB Update email newsletters; Facebook Live sessions; and targeted communications.
  • SEBB My Account needs additional functionality to inform subscribers that their enrollment is complete and other notifications.

Dave Iseminger, ERB Division director, and John Bowden, SEBB section manager, gave a report on SEBB’s first annual open enrollment results and what HCA learned during the process. Key results from the report (on pages 35 to 49 of the briefing book) include:

  • 146,000 employees (approximately) were eligible for SEBB benefits.
  • 98 percent of those employees enrolled in, or waived, medical coverage.
  • 105,635 school employees in Washington had medical coverage before SEBB; now 126,761 have coverage.
  • 93,372 school employees’ dependents had medical coverage before SEBB; now 130,058 have coverage.
  • 43,500 subscribers selected Uniform Medical Plan’s Achieve 2 medical plan, making it the most popular plan.
  • 4,500 appeals were received as of January 11. About 42 percent concerned dependent verification; 41 percent concerned dental plan selection; and 17 percent concerned other plan enrollment corrections.

Tanya Deuel, ERB finance manager, gave an update on the SEBB-related items in the Governor’s 2020 supplemental budget. The state’s school employee funding rate for the 2020 fiscal year is $994 per employee, per month; it increases to $1,029 in 2021. See page 51 of the briefing book for additional information.

Marcia Peterson, ERB Benefits Strategy and Design section manager, gave an update of SEBB’s annual benefits planning cycle. The SEBB Benefits Strategy and Design team is currently working on identifying benefit priorities.

ERB senior account managers Ellen Wolfhagen and Kimberly Gazard presented information on SEBB’s dental benefits structure and a special enrollment for supplemental long-term disability benefits coming in May. See pages 69 to 84 of the briefing book for details.

Cade Walker, executive special assistant to the ERB Division director, presented information on the optional benefits (those that the SEBB Program does not have exclusive authority to offer) that SEBB organizations can offer their employees. SEBB organizations must report their optional benefit offerings to HCA each year. Data reported in a survey after the first annual open enrollment showed:

  • 23 different types of benefits (not including “other”) were reported, from more than 85 different sources. The categories of benefits offered were:
    • Retirement/financial (annuities, deferred compensation, VEBA)
    • Employee assistance programs
    • General liability (home, auto, pet)
    • Supplemental health indemnity (accident, cancer, emergency transportation)
  • Eight types of reported benefits are likely in conflict with the SEB Board’s benefit authority (disability, cancer/intensive care, life insurance, accident, critical illness, hospital indemnity, accidental death and dismemberment, and emergency transportation).
  • 32 organizations that responded had one or more conflicting benefit offerings. Organizations will be notified of any conflicting benefits.

Lauren Johnston, SEBB procurement manager, updated the Board on potential changes to the SEBB medical plans in 2021 and feedback received after the first annual open enrollment. See page 100 of the briefing book for details.

Barb Scott, ERB Policy, Rules, and Compliance manager, presented two SEBB policy resolutions.

  • Policy resolution 2020-01: Inclusion of paid hours (see above)
  • Policy resolution 2020-02: Benefits eligibility after returning to work (see above)

Megan Atkinson, HCA chief financial officer, presented information on the annual rate process and presented Policy Resolution 2020-03. (See below for the resolution.)

Cade Walker presented information on HCA’s legislative charge to study the impact of ESD employees’ participation in the SEBB Program. The study must be reported to the Legislature’s fiscal committees by December 31, 2020. Data from ESDs is due at the mid-February. Once it has been received, HCA staff will begin analyzing the data and drafting the report.

Coming March 5

The following resolution was introduced at the January 27, 2020 SEB Board meeting. The Board may take action on the resolution at its next scheduled meeting on March 5, 2020.

Resolution 2020-03: Rate development procedure

Beginning with the rate development process in 2020 (to set employee premium contributions for plan year 2021) and annual rate development processes thereafter, the SEB Board will not review or consider unsolicited revised rates after proposed employee premium contributions are published publicly by the Health Care Authority on its website.

For more information

You can find more information on the SEBB Program webpage.