More information about optional benefits

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More information about optional benefits

On September 5, we sent a message with additional guidance on optional benefits. Since then, we have received several questions and additional important information that has prompted revisions to portions of our guidance.

There are three primary revisions and clarifications:

Employee assistance programs (EAPs)

EAPs do not conflict with SEBB Program offering authority. If your school district chooses to do so, it may offer an EAP.

Liability insurance

We recently became aware of RCW 28A.400.370 (mandatory insurance protection for employees) and that some school districts provide other work-related liability insurance coverage, such as commercial driver’s insurance for bus drivers. Historically, liability insurance administered by HCA has included at least personal auto and home insurance.

As a result of this information, we are revising our guidance on liability insurance. School districts may continue to offer liability insurance (including personal auto and home) until at least September 1, 2020. Over the course of the next year, there could be changes to this guidance as a result of legislative action, SEB Board action, or agency rule-making processes. We will make all efforts to inform you as soon as possible of any changes ahead of the 2020–2021 school year.

Cancer insurance

As described in the September 5 guidance, cancer insurance does conflict with the SEBB Program offering authority. We are aware that this corrects previously issued guidance. This correction occurred because we now have a better understanding that cancer insurance coverage is a form of health insurance within the offering authority of the SEBB Program.

Importantly, the corrected cancer insurance guidance applies beginning January 1, 2020, when SEBB Program benefits officially begin. Under state law, SEBB organizations can offer benefits like cancer insurance until December 31, 2019. Therefore, if your organization plans to offer cancer insurance to its school employees during fall of 2019, you can proceed with these plans.

However, as of January 1, 2020, you cannot offer cancer insurance. Per prior guidance, this restriction includes, but is not limited to:

  • Inviting a vendor to attend a benefits fair to endorse products that competes with any form of a benefit under the SEBB Program’s authority — even if the vendor’s product would be fully paid by the employee.
  • Providing vendors with employee contact information for marketing purposes.
  • Facilitating payroll deductions.  

School employees who are enrolled in cancer insurance (and other insurance products that conflict with the SEBB Program offering authority) must be transitioned to other payment models (example, direct billing) as of January 1, 2020.

If your organization has negotiated bargaining contracts prior to our September 5 guidance that included cancer insurance based on the previous guidance received from HCA, we do not intend to adversely impact the contractual obligation of your organization. We expect you to align your contracts with HCA and SEBB determinations at the next available opening of such contracts.

FAQ updates

In addition to this updated guidance and clarification, we have drafted several new FAQs related to optional benefits. Many of the questions we received that were not addressed in this email are included in the new FAQs. Please see our FAQs for school administrators (and select "Optional benefits" from the FAQ topic list).