@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

NC teachers at odds with state workers over health plan changes

Posted March 22, 2011 6:32 p.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2011 10:16 a.m. EDT

Updated below with statement from SEANC.

The Senate Appropriations committee is expected to vote Wednesday morning on S265, a bill that started out as a five-page proposal to change the oversight of the State Health Plan, but turned into a 46-page program overhaul as of Monday night.

The AP has the details, but in a nutshell, S265 would impose premiums on state employees for their health care for the first time. State workers pay a hefty premium to insure family members, but they pay nothing for their own coverage. In addition, the bill would raise co-pays and cut benefits to bridge what lawmakers say is a $515 million gap in program funding.

But the measure would also give the state employees’ union some things they want. It would do away with higher premiums for smokers and obese people, including the potential for future body-mass tests for state workers. It would move oversight of the plan from the legislature to the executive branch (the Treasurer’s office, specifically). And it would make future contracts between the plan and insurers public record. The plan’s current arrangement with Blue Cross is not.

Senator Tom Apodaca says the bill’s writers were talking to the state employees’ group (SEANC) as they worked on the proposal. 

SEANC spokesperson Ardis Watkins said, "This is a 45-page bill. There are parts of it we don’t like. Like increasing the premium – we’ve always been vocal about that. That being said, the governor put the premium increase out there."

"What this bill does do, however, is every piece of reform we feel is absolutely necessary if the state health plan is going to survive long-term," Watkins said. “This bill stops sweetheart no-bid contracts that the legislature can dole out to whoever they feel like.  We might not be able to agree with everything in this bill, but we felt that the importance of those items can’t be diminished simply by the fact that there’s a premium in there."

Another group, the NC Association of Educators, has come out against it. Spokesman Brian Lewis says teachers will not support the proposal.

Lewis says he wasn't allowed to speak for NCAE at Tuesday morning's Senate Insurance debate on S265, but has been told he'll be able to comment on it Wednesday morning in Senate Appropriations. That meeting starts at 8:00 in Room 643 of the Legislative Office Building.