County and local governments sound alarm over potential health benefit program rate hike

As the New Jersey State Health Benefits Commission (SHBC) launches a plan to increase state health benefits program rates by up to 24% for 2023, New Jersey County officials Jersey and local governments are warning of the disastrous effect such a rise could have.

According to John Donnadio, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, SHBC compiled a report listing the rise and shared it with insurance brokers on July 13 — a report that has yet to be made public.

Annual rate increases are usually in the range of 3-5%, so a 24% increase would be a major step forward. Donnadio said that if it were to materialize, such a hike would take a heavy toll on both governments and their employees.

“Across the state, it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” Donnadio said. “Not only local governments and property taxpayers, but employees are also going to struggle with this.”

Jennifer Sciortino, spokeswoman for the state Treasury Department, said both Covid and inflation contributed to the projected rise, which she said is likely to be an “anomaly.”

“While there is significant volatility in health care trends, rate increases for state plans are consistent with rate increases experienced by our consultants’ other clients and are also reported across the board. national,” Sciortino said. “We believe these circumstances are an anomaly rather than the norm, and we believe it is more likely than not that usage and costs will normalize.”

A vote on the increase was scheduled for next Monday, but it was postponeda decision that Sciortino says was made at the July 13 meeting. This can buy time for county and local governments and unions representing their employees to push for changes.

“I think the increases are just unsustainable,” Donnadio said. “I think the commission, I think the administration, and I think our heads of state need to do a much better job of negotiating lower rates, or we’re going to be recommending our members leave the benefit program. state health.”

In response to the news, state Republicans began lambasting the state government and the Murphy administration, blaming the raise on the governor’s feet.

“Governor Murphy has completely failed to control health care premiums paid by state, local governments, and active and retired public employees,” Senate Minority Leader Steven Oroho (R-Franklin) said in a statement. a statement. “We need to investigate the failures that led to these catastrophic premium increases to develop an effective plan moving forward.”

Legislative Democrats also expressed dismay; Senate Speaker Nick Scutari (D-Linden), Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) and Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) issued a statement this afternoon joint requesting the rejection of the proposal.

“This is a staggering increase that will impose higher costs on taxpayers, public sector workers and educators at a time when we all face inflationary pressures and a possible recession,” they said. . “We urge those with approval authority to reject the plan which has been suddenly scheduled for action with little notice and no real justification.”

This story was updated at 2:04 p.m. with a statement from the Oroho Minority Leader, and again at 2:51 p.m. with details and clarifications from the Treasury Department. It was updated for the third time at 3:58 p.m. with a statement from Senate Democrats.

About Evelyn C. Heim

Check Also

Unions rally for ‘deal’ on state health benefits

TRENTON – René Demuynck is rather optimistic. As hundreds of public union workers dressed in …