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Governor's task force seeks ways to lower teacher health care costs

A proposal by Gov. Katie Hobbs’ bipartisan educator retention task force to lower health-insurance costs for teachers could find support in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The task force issued a report this week that included a recommendation that the governor work with state agencies to find ways to reduce health insurance costs for teachers and school employees. 

Republican lawmaker Ken Bennett, who served on the task force, said the devil is in the details but that he believes Republicans would get behind that goal.

“Maybe we need to find some way to say if a district or a charter school employs you as a full-time teacher, we’re going to pool all of those people into one health insurance program and it’s going to cost $15,000 a year instead of, I think they said $24,000 a year,” Bennett said. 

Republican lawmaker Matt Gress, who was exploring his own plans to lower teacher health insurance costs, said there are many variables to investigate before adding teachers to the state employee health plan, including what impact that would have on the program’s financial stability.

“We don’t want to create a situation where the health insurance trust fund goes bankrupt,” Gress said. “That would not be ideal.”

Gress says he has not spoken with the governor’s office about the task force’s report but that he will likely introduce related legislation.

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.