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June 12, 1970
Honorable Leonard Nord
Chairman, State Employees' Insurance Board
Olympia, Washington 98501
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 91
By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office on the following question:
"'Can state agencies, who are not contributing to Group Health and Kaiser (panel medicine plans), and whose employees are currently enrolled in and paying the full premium for such plans, which were approved by the Insurance Advisory Committee, now begin making the state's $10.00 contribution to such plans?'"
By way of explanation of the background for your request, your letter sets forth the following factual resume:
"The issue arose because some individual agencies have contracts with Group Health Co-operative and Kaiser Foundation (panel medicine plans) and have been paying the state's $10.00 premium contribution to these companies for agency employees. Employees in other agencies, which do not have contracts with these plans, have foregone the $10.00 contribution and have enrolled in the plans because they strongly prefer them over the plans for which their agency pays the state contribution.
"The State Employees' Insurance and Health Care Advisory Committee, before it went out of existence, allowed existing panel medicine contracts to continue until SB 179 could be passed and implemented. Now the employees who are paying the entire premium, to be covered by the panel medicine plans, wish to have their agencies begin paying the $10.00 state contribution."
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]] ANALYSIS
We believe that your question must be answered in the negative. Senate Bill No. 79, to which you have referred, was enacted as chapter 29, Laws of 1970, and became effective February 24, 1970, when it was signed by the Governor ‑ in as much as it contained an emergency clause. By § 10 of this act, the legislature removed the various departments, divisions or separate agencies of the state government from the provisions of RCW 41.04.180, under which these agencies had previously been authorized to:
". . . provide for all or a part of hospitalization and medical aid for its employees and their dependents through contracts with regularly constituted insurance carriers or with health care service contractors as defined in chapter 48.44 RCW, for group hospitalization and medical aid policies or plans: . . ."
and to pay not to exceed ten dollars per month per employee covered toward payment of the premiums under such plans.
In lieu of this procedure (which remains in effect for county, city and other municipal employees), the legislature established a requirement that every department, division or separate agency of state government must contribute to hospitalization and medical aid plans for its employees after the state employee's insurance board, a new state agency created by this act, has determined the contents of such plans and awarded contracts therefor. See, §§ 5 and 11 (7) and (8), chapter 39, Laws of 1970, Ex. Sess.
In preparation for the enactment of this legislation by the 1970 session, the 1969 session of the legislature had created a temporary "state employees' insurance and health care advisory committee" and had directed it to
". . . study all matters connected with the providing of adequate health care coverage for state employees covered under the provisions of RCW 41.04.180 on the best basis possible with relation both to the welfare of the employees covered and to the state. . . ."
". . . report its recommendations to the next regular or special session of the legislature at the commencement thereof. . . ." (Sec. 8, chapter 237, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess.)
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]] And by § 10 of this 1969 act, the legislature had empowered this committee to approve the extension of all previously executed contracts for employee hospitalization and medical aid expiring on or after July 1, 1969, for up to one year after their respective expiration dates. In accordance with this provision, this committee, before it disbanded, did in fact approve such extensions ‑ so that even though the legislation under which the existing contracts were executed has been superseded by the above described provisions of chapter 39, Laws of 1970, Ex. Sess., those pre‑existing [[preexisting]]contracts may remain in effect for the periods authorized by these extensions.
However, obviously, no new contracts may now be initiated by any state departments or agencies acting independently of the new state employees' insurance board and its procedures as spelled out in the 1970 act. Accordingly, it must be concluded, agencies of state government which were not participating in the Group Health and Kaiser (medical plans) prior to February 24, 1970,1/ do not have the authority to contract and commence such participation at this time. Such agencies, instead, must await the action of the state employees' insurance board as above outlined.
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Dean A. Floyd
Assistant Attorney General
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/I.e., those unaffected by the aforesaid advisory committee's approval for the extension of existing contracts as provided for in § 10, chapter 237, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess., supra.