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Bill to boost teacher health coverage glides through Idaho House

A teacher in front of a small group of students in a classroom with a blue floor.
Mary Altaffer/AP
FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2021, file photo Pre-K teacher Vera Csizmadia teaches 3-and 4-year-old students in her classroom at the Dr. Charles Smith Early Childhood Center in Palisades Park, N.J. As Democrats push ahead with President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan, they are promising historic investments across all levels of education. The proposal includes universal prekindergarten, two years of free community college and expanded child care subsidies, among others. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Idaho teachers are one step closer to getting more affordable health coverage.

House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve the bill Monday, which would incentivize school districts to join the state of Idaho’s health plan.

If funded through a separate bill, the state would cover another $4,000 of a teacher’s health insurance costs to bring them on-par with state employees.

The proposal, which was teased in Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address, is estimated to cost $105 million.

Rep. Gary Marshall (R-Idaho Falls) taught in public schools at the beginning of his career. Marshall said his modest salary couldn’t support his expensive health plan and family.

“It is time for us to do this. It is extremely important. I left public education because I couldn’t make it,” he said.

Marshall eventually left to work at Rick’s College, which has since been renamed BYU-Idaho, for a slight pay bump and a significantly more affordable insurance plan.

Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) said she wants to help teachers by transitioning them to the state’s plan.

“But what that’s really doing in the free market is giving a windfall to [Blue Cross of Idaho],” Scott said.

Blue Cross of Idaho services the state’s plan, which is competitively bid. The insurance company first won the contract in 2005 and again in 2014.

The Idaho Division of Purchasing plans to release a new call for proposals later this year.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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