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Lawmakers try again on State Health Plan

Posted April 28, 2011
Updated April 29, 2011

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— State lawmakers are trying yet again to find middle ground on the State Health Plan.

The plan, which serves more than 660,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and dependents, has been in financial trouble for years. It’s projected to be more than $500 million in the red by the end of the next two-year budget cycle unless lawmakers make changes to it.

Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed an earlier proposal that would have required plan members to pay premiums for their own coverage for the first time. She called it “a tax on teachers.”

Last week, House lawmakers passed a compromise measure they were told Perdue would sign. It offers basic coverage at no cost to active workers and retirees. The state also would pay $127 million into the plan over the next two years to firm up its finances. The rest of the deficit would be covered by the premiums and benefit cuts.

But the Senate refused to accept the House measure, insisting that lawmakers stick to the initial plan of paying about $115 million into the plan.

"Our folks are pretty well dug in," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "We've allocated all the monies to the State Health Plan that we're going to at this point.”

The latest Senate bid actually costs the state slightly less than the version Perdue vetoed. The premiums are back, though they’re slightly lower for people on Medicaid, and co-pays for generic drugs would rise from $10 to $12.

The measure also instructs the plan's new manager, the state treasurer, to try to find a way to offer workers a no-premium option by 2013.

The cost to the state for the next two years would be $114.3 million.

The Senate approved its proposal Thursday, but leaders said they didn’t know whether the governor would sign it.

“I have spoken to the governor and 80 percent of her staff,” Apodaca said, “and I honestly can’t tell you anything more than I did before I talked to her.”

“I hope she’ll do what’s right and sign this bill, but goodness gracious, I’m not in a position to tell you anything,” he added.

Senate Democrats said Perdue wanted a free basic option for active workers and teachers, like the one offered to retirees. But Republicans said the House “signed off” on the compromise.

“I think we all might wish that we could have it free for state workers and retirees,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. “The problem is, folks, we’re in this hole because it has been free. Nowhere else in the free world would you get this plan for free.”

Tillman said he expects the governor will sign it. “Basically, we took her suggestion to start with,” he said.

The House decided not to take up the measure Thursday. A staffer for Speaker Thom Tillis said they’d had “no assurance” the governor would sign it. They’re scheduled to vote on it Monday night.

Legislators are running up against a deadline on the bill. Republican leaders said Health Plan director Jack Walker told them the changes must be approved in the next few days if they’re to be put into effect for the next fiscal year, which starts in July.

Asked for comment on the Senate bill, Perdue spokesman Mark Johnson replied by email, “We’re watching the legislation closely and hoping to reach the best possible result for teachers, state employees and retirees.”

16 Comments

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  • Plenty Coups Apr 29, 2011

    Its a matter of priorities and the republicans would rather have state workers pay more than simply keeping the one percentage sales tax.

  • MakoII Apr 29, 2011

    Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph can stuff it, as well as others who think like him.

    This plan isn't "free". My wife EARNS that benefit by WORKING.

    You want to compare it to private industry? Fine, pay her 20k more and let her get her own healthcare just like "private industry" for a highly trained and educated professional required to maintain certification by continuing education credits.

  • kenshi Apr 29, 2011

    @theseahorse.. I have worked in provate industry for 25 years and now I work for UNC. In private industry my insurance was always free (and the companies I worked for STILL have free insurance for their employees). The UNC system pay is about 70% of private industry as well so working at UNC is not the 'free ride' or luxurious job you seem to think.

  • Keepin_it_real_in_NC Apr 29, 2011

    "Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer that operates as a nonprofit, earned $186 million last year and paid six top executives more than $1 million each, topped by Chief Executive Bob Greczyn's $4 million income."

    Get your facts right Mustange. Blue Cross is a "NOT FOR PROFIT" which is different than a nonprofit. Second, Grecyn is no longer Chief Executive. Time to update your talking points memos.

  • Mustange Apr 29, 2011

    Here you go:

    Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer that operates as a nonprofit, earned $186 million last year and paid six top executives more than $1 million each, topped by Chief Executive Bob Greczyn's $4 million income.

  • Mustange Apr 29, 2011

    {Workers for private companies DO NOT get free insurance.} I worked for a major manufacturing facility in fayetteville and my insurance was free. So yes private companies offer free insurans as well

  • Mustange Apr 29, 2011

    Time to open it up and let someone else have it not BCBS, poor mouth us to death then report record profits. Go figure !!

  • vter53 Apr 29, 2011

    I worked in the private sector before going to the state and I got my health insurance at no charge and let me tell you this, it was for a family plan, lower co-pays and a much better policy than the state of NC offers. The state should not be in the insurance business in the first place. A good HMO or PPO would be much cheaper for a family plan and much better coverage.

  • Oscar's Mom Apr 29, 2011

    For those who say that private companies do usually provide free insurance. That is true for the individual employees. What is not stated is that the State pays 0% for spousal or family coverage, meaning that its employees pay approximately $600 per month to cover their spouse and/or of families. Private companies don't usually do that either. Though some would lead you to believe otherwise, State employees make less than their private counterparts for similar jobs. As a state employee, I wouldn't mind paying a premium, but only if those trying to cover their spouses/families got a break. Now they too, will have to pay more.

  • Elvisisdead Apr 29, 2011

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    workers for private companies DO NOT get free insurance. If the state employees don't understand that I pay for part of my insurance coverage they should also. Please don't tell me you work for the State for less money as this is your choice. You can leave and go in the private sector.
    theseahorse
    April 29, 2011 9:15 a.m.
    Ignore Report abuse

    Periodically I get a breakdown of my salery and other state benifits. Paid health care premiums is part of my total compensation, along with PTO and other non-salary items.It is not a gimme. It is part of the total benifit package presented to me when I started working for a state agency. Some state positions may offer a lower salary for similar work done in the private sector and health-care benifits help equalize that discrepancy.

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