N.J. public staff face big increase in medical health insurance rates in coming yr

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Lots of of hundreds of public staff, early retireesm and faculty employees in Latest Jersey are facing potential rate increases of as much as 24% for health advantages under proposals being considered by the State Health Advantages Commission.

Rate increases being considered include a 24% increase for medical and a 3.7% increase for pharmacy advantages for energetic public staff, in addition to a 15.6% increase in medical and a 26.1% increase in pharmacy advantages for public staff who retired before the age of 65, in line with an email sent to county administrators from Latest Jersey Association of Counties Executive Director John Donnadio.

Donnadio said in the e-mail that the figures, which haven’t been made public, were shared by an insurance and advantages broker.

StateTreasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino acknowledged rate increases were being considered and added that rates for energetic members and early retirees would likely increase between 12-20% across the assorted plans for the upcoming yr.

A vote to approve the speed increases was scheduled for Monday, however the state health advantages board and the Division of Pension and Advantages postponed the vote after acknowledging during a public meeting on July 13 that more time could be needed to handle questions and concerns, Sciortino said.

“As has been the official process for a few years now, the presentation materials provided to the State Health Advantages Program and School Employees Health Advantages Program Commissions last week are confidential until the rates are finalized,” Sciortino said.

The Latest Jersey League of Municipalities on Wednesday sent an email urging members to contact their representatives and the governor’s office, prompting a public outcry from state and native governments, in addition to Democratic and Republican state lawmakers.

“It is a staggering increase that can saddle taxpayers, public sector staff and educators with higher costs at a time after we are all contending with inflationary pressures and a possible recession,” state Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union; Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex and Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, said in a joint statement.

The Democratic state senators urged the board to reject the proposal and called on Latest Jersey Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio to make use of her authority to dam the planned approval “and be certain a full accounting of the funds of the 2 health advantages’ plans is made public and fully discussed.”

Republican leadership within the state Legislature on Thursday called for the creation of a special legislative committee to analyze Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration for a “failure to manage health care costs for public employees, retirees and taxpayers.”

“The 24% premium increase proposed for many energetic employees will take hundreds more out of their paychecks annually and lead to very large costs for local governments that can translate into higher property tax bills for struggling families,” state Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, said in an announcement. “We must investigate the failures that led to those catastrophic premium increases to develop an efficient plan going forward.”

The proposed rate increases shine a recent highlight on allegations that the Murphy administration squashed an try to get well $34 million the state paid to Horizon for a price savings program that outside consultants found “yielded no apparent savings,” in line with a report from Bloomberg.

Horizon administers health care plans for state and native government employees and retirees in Latest Jersey.

“It’s absolutely scandalous that high-level administration officials would intercede to forestall Horizon from being held accountable as premiums are set to skyrocket,” Senate Republican Budget Officer Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said in an announcement. “Employees, retirees, and taxpayers need to know why.”

Sciortino said several “extraordinary aspects” are affecting rates for the approaching yr, including higher utilization of medical services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and a return to normal services and procedures that had been previously postponed.

Those aspects are being compounded by rising prices amid historic inflationary pressures which have increased health care costs nationwide.

“While there is critical volatility in health care trends, the speed increases for the State plans are according to rate increases that our consultants’ other clients are experiencing and are also being reported nationwide,” Sciortino said. “We imagine that these circumstances are an anomaly, reasonably than the norm, and we imagine that it’s more likely than not that utilization and costs will normalize.”

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Derek Hall could also be reached at dhall@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @dereknhall.

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