House leaders make clear they want health coverage for bus drivers

State House leaders made it clear Tuesday that they want part-time school staffers like bus drivers to get health insurance.

House leaders sent that message in the mid-year budget the chamber is expected to approve Thursday. The move was in reaction to Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to eliminate state funding for coverage to about 11,500 part-time employees starting next year.

Deal’s office said the change would save $103 million and be in line with the state’s health policy toward other part-time employees who currently don’t get subsidized coverage under the State Health Benefit Plan.

House leaders make clear they want health coverage for bus drivers photo
Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed ending state funding to pay for health insurance for about 11,500 part-time school workers, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers
The governor’s proposal to cut the health care funding is part of the budget for fiscal 2016, which begins July 1. The mid-year budget already has the part-time workers covered, but funding for that coverage would end at the end of the year.

While rewriting the mid-year budget, House leaders inserted language in a section on a State Health Benefit Plan cost study saying, “The General Assembly also finds that non-certificated school employees are an essential part of the education delivery system and directs that any such report include an examination of options to provide health benefits to these workers.”

The statement was a sign of the fight to come over maintaining health coverage for bus drivers and cafeteria workers. Members of both parties have raised concerns about Deal’s proposal since he released it almost two weeks ago.

However, they will have to find $103 million to make up for the cut in Deal’s budget plan. That may mean shifting more of the cost of health coverage to local school districts, or the employees through higher premiums.

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