What a long, strange trip it's been for legislative attempts to fix the State Health Plan.
The first measure lawmakers sent to Gov. Bev Perdue, S265, got a veto stamp because, she said, it amounted to a pay cut for active state employees, who would have had to pay a premium for their coverage for the first time.
A compromise measure, S323, has been sitting on Perdue's desk since legislators sent it to her May 12th.
Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said the governor met with House and Senate leaders late last week to work out yet another fix. "She didn't want to veto another health plan bill," Pearson said.
The deal they worked out, H578, is designed to complement the measure (S323) already on Perdue’s desk. It keeps the basic 70/30 plan free for active employees for the coming fiscal year. It also directs the state treasurer, who will now manage the plan, to find savings through wellness programs and other measures to try to preserve the free plan in later years.
“This is truly a happy day,” said House Insurance chairman Jerry Dockham.
In its version of S323, the House had tried to keep the basic plan free, but the Senate had balked at the 30 million or so additional state dollars that would’ve required. In the new bill, higher-than-expected reserves within the State Health Plan would pay for the year of free coverage.
“I know there’s a guarantee for only one year, but I see this as the right fix,” said Rep. Winkie Wilkins, D-Person.
Some Democrats questioned whether H578 truly guarantees free basic coverage, since it says the plan “may” provide it. But State Health Plan director Jack Walker sent a letter to lawmakers confirming that the Plan can and will cover the cost.
The measure passed its sole House today, 90-24, and was sent to the governor immediately. Pearson says Perdue intends to sign it along with S323 in the very near future.