Public employees throughout the state can expect an increase on their health insurance plans.
The rate spike was approved morning by the State Health Benefits Commission after a two month outcry from labor leaders about the impact. The vote, which included rate increases for public employees of about 20% passed with three votes in favor. Commissioner Jennifer Higgins opposed, and Commissioner Dudley Burdge abstained.
State workers that are part of certain unions — including AFSCME Council 63, CWA, IFPTE Local 195, the New Jersey Council of State College Locals, AFT and IBEW Local 33 — will only see an increase of about 3%. Employees on the local and county level will see a spike of about 20% each.
Burdge and Higgins are the AFL-CIO representatives, for local and state employees respectively, on the committee.
The State Health Benefits Commission is charged under statute with setting the premiums for the plans within the program each year. The increase is based on the recommendation of Aon actuarial consultant, which analyzed previous coverage levels, trends in service usage and inflation to make recommendations to the commission.
There are about 816,000 public employees covered by the State Health Benefit Plan and the State Education Health Benefit Plan, according to the Treasury Department. This includes all manner of employees, from firefighters to teachers to local and state workers.
The proposal could affect all state employees, as well as 763 county and municipal agencies employing a wide variety of workers from every county, according to information provided by the New Jersey Association of Counties.
In addition to driving up the cost of health care for these workers, labor officials warn, the trickle-down effect of the exponential increase could affect local property taxes, because municipalities and counties would be on the hook to cover a portion of the increased rate.
The Senate majority leader, Teresa Ruiz, also warned in a statement on Wednesday that “New Jersey’s increase, absent any solution, could ultimately lead to higher property taxes.”
Her Republican counterpart, minority leader Steve Oroho, echoed that sentiment, noting that the “higher premiums will also have a huge impact on school districts and local governments that pay a large portion of the total premiums for their employees.”
Labor leaders had called for the vote to be postponed so that Horizon, the benefits provider, could be further questioned on cost projections. But Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio, who is designated as the chairperson of the State Health Benefits Commission, said the vote can’t be delayed because the open enrollment for members starts Oct. 1.