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N.C. lawmakers try new fix for State Health Plan

Posted April 19, 2011

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— State lawmakers are trying again to pass a State Health Plan fix that might win Gov. Bev Perdue’s approval.

The health plan, which serves about 667,000 state workers, teachers, retirees and their dependents, has been financially troubled for years. It was expected to face a shortfall of more than $500 million over the next two years if lawmakers didn’t make some big changes to the plan.

Legislators’ last attempt, Senate Bill 265, would have cut benefits, raised co-pays and deductibles and charged workers a premium for the first time ever. The price would have been about $11 a month for the basic plan, or $22 a month for better coverage.

The proposal also cut out controversial “wellness” rules that set higher rates for smokers and obese people.

Last week, Perdue vetoed that measure, calling it “a tax on teachers” who haven’t had a pay raise in years and who are already among the lowest-paid in the country. She said teachers and employees should have had more input in the bill.

After discussions with teachers, Republicans on Tuesday unveiled Senate Bill 323. It’s the same bill they sent Perdue last week, with one added line: “In setting premium rates, the Treasurer shall strive to maintain low premiums by finding savings in the operation of the Plan.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Dockham, R-Davidson, said he wasn’t sure whether the change would be enough to win Perdue’s approval. “I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”

House Democrats don’t think so. “You’re plowing the same ground essentially that you have before,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, “and the results are probably going to be the same.”

Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, agreed. “You’re making this committee and this legislature spin its wheels,” he said. “It essentially is a pay cut for state employees and teachers.”

The North Carolina Association of Educators, which represents about 60,000 teachers statewide, does not support the new version. NCAE lobbyist Brian Lewis asked lawmakers to offer workers the option of free basic coverage or better coverage at a price. “We could pay for that by keeping the smoking cessation” incentive, Lewis said.

Democrats argued that ongoing negotiations over the premiums should be allowed to continue. But Republicans said changes need to be made by Friday to allow the plan to start its enrollment period on time.

The measure passed the House on its first vote, 61-54, largely along party lines. Its final House vote is scheduled for Wednesday. If it passes one Senate vote the same day, it could be on Perdue’s desk Wednesday afternoon.

Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson wouldn’t say what the governor would do with the new measure.

"We understand the House will introduce a version tomorrow that includes a no-cost option for teachers and state employees," Pearson said in a emailed statement. “The governor will wait until all the negotiations are over to see what solution is reached.”

“She is glad to see what looks to be positive movement, though,” Pearson added.

22 Comments

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  • hop4 Apr 21, 2011

    So sorry, I went over the 1000 words. To correct myself I was referring of course to the 70/30 plan (not a 70/20) for 2010-2011 year. In conclusion to my previous comment with fewer words here. I just don't understand why we, as state retiree's, are being penalized by the proposed premium for 80/20 which offers the very same deductible and co insurance for the exact 70/30 plan we have this year. Thanks.

  • hop4 Apr 21, 2011

    As a 63 year old retiree, with no medicare, I am really disappointed in our legislature for this Health care plan proposal. Last year, you may recall smoker's and people who were deemed overweight were penalized last year and had no option but to accept the 70/20 plan. Well, I was one of those smokers, but quit smoking last May, in hopes of better health and a choice of the 80/20 plan this year. Well, now it appears that all of the smoker's who quit and the people who lost weight are now being faced with paying a premium for the very same co-insurance and deductible with this proposed 80/20 plan as we had with the 70/30 plan last year. Does no one see this. It does appear that not only are we being penalized again this year but everyone now will have to pay a premium for the high co insurance and deductibles that were attached to the 70/20 plan last year. For what it was worth, I wrote my elected legislative members of this fact and my disapproval. I just don't see why we, as state r

  • Plenty Coups Apr 20, 2011

    "They don't get a raise when the teachers do, they don't have a union (which saves on union dues) and they don't get paid for overtime. On top of that the salaries are lower than the private sector. "

    This isn't about teachers vs. other state workers, nor should it be. This should be about state workers including teachers vs. those in the state legislature (mostly republicans) that don't want to give out raises but do want to give out pay freezes, cuts, and pass on higher costs to ALL state workers w/o even considering keeping the one cent sales tax that would have paid for any increase in health care costs and then some. No republican has ever proposed paying state workers more and I doubt they ever will. It goes against their belief system. They are your enemy.

  • lorac Apr 20, 2011

    Teachers, what about the rest of the state workers, especially those in Department of Corrections? These folks put their lives on the line for your safety every day of the year, 24-7. They don't get a raise when the teachers do, they don't have a union (which saves on union dues) and they don't get paid for overtime. On top of that the salaries are lower than the private sector. Oh I know you think they should all quit and work in the private sector, but in this economy that's out of the question. Co-pays keep going up, gas prices go up, food prices go up, no raises in years no pay for overtime, no incentives for good work. Wow that's a lot to make you want to work for the state!!! Yes you in the private sector pay for your insurance but you have more disposable income to do that with. If all the Dept of Corrections would stay home just one day, lets see how much you would complain when the inmates took over the reins.$20 isn't a lot but for retirees that's food money.

  • 1whocares Apr 20, 2011

    I have been with the State for 21 years and have no problems paying $22 a month for health insurance. We all should do out part to resolve the problem...

  • short Apr 20, 2011

    Hmm, a pay cut? My premiums have increased each year..my salary has been frozen for 2 years.....so please..tell me what makes me different then the teachers....that they can't experience the same? Ah - another quid pro quo with the unions ah Bev? You scratch their back - they vote for you ..all at tax payer expense. Collective bargaining on the public sector ...yea right.

    Finally Bev...you claim its as if you are adding a tax on the public sector....well how about my premiums or the increases for that matter........ah thats right again - public union.

  • gravlox Apr 20, 2011

    We as a couple paid $250 a month to my employer for coverage before I retired early. Now we pay almost $700.00 a month and I don't go to the doctor because I can't afford the deductibles and/or co-insurance on what is needed for treatment. --indrdw

    Doesn't anyone understand that the "free" coverage they're talking about is only for the employee? To cover my wife and child, I pay over 500 a month, plus high copays (50 or 75 depending on the doc) plus fairly high deductibles. Not complaining, just some facts.

  • catsmeow Apr 20, 2011

    I think what folks don't realize is that if you want good teachers you need to pay them, no raises for 4 years and increasing costs, when your state ranks 45th out of 50 for teachers pay means people will move on and you will get bad teachers. So, for everyone that thinks this is a good idea, then don't complain when your kids get an education that ranks last in the nation.

  • indrdw Apr 20, 2011

    Sounds like they wanted to state workers to pay $11 or $22 a month for premiums.. Most employees of private companies would love that. Most people have high co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance so why are the state workers any better than the tax payers that foot the bill for them. I know they pay taxes too but for example We as a couple paid $250 a month to my employer for coverage before I retired early. Now we pay almost $700.00 a month and I don't go to the doctor because I can't afford the deductibles and/or co-insurance on what is needed for treatment.
    Not complaining, just facts.

  • pulstar40 Apr 20, 2011

    “In setting premium rates, the Treasurer shall strive to maintain low premiums by finding savings in the operation of the Plan.” Shall strive? As in spend 30 seconds trying to find savings, say yes, I looked, nothing there and move on? This added statement means absolutely nothing.

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