Public employees are stepping up their pressure on a plan that would increase health care costs by more than 20% next year, including a statehouse rally next week, in advance of a possible vote by the New Jersey State Health Benefits Commission.
“Rising health care costs doesn’t make New Jersey stronger or fairer,” said Jim McAsey, a Communications Workers of America New Jersey staff representative.
McAsey said public employees would lose between one-half percent and one and one-half percent of their salary if the health care costs plan is approved.
“That’s a pretty big pay cut,” stated McAsey. “That’s on top of other sacrifices that were made during the pandemic to shore up the state’s finances.”
Unions have suggested that the administration do a better job of negotiating lower rates
“We haven’t gotten any commitments and I can’t comment on negotiations,” McAsey said.
But the CWA deftly avoided direct criticism of Gov. Phil Murphy, who has been perhaps the strongest political ally the state employees union has ever had.
Members of the New Jersey State Trooper’s Fraternal Association would spend between $1,500 and $1,800 annually in increased premiums.
Michael Zaynor of the NJSTFA said that the increased costs will be a “significant burden” on local governments as well.
“Whatever the employee pays, the town is probably paying double that because of the way the cost sharing is structured,” Zaynor said. “That could be potentially passed along in tax increases.”
Zaynor said there are ways to mitigate the hike in coverage costs, but “we think we can control costs while still maintaining access to quality care.”
The proposal has also been skewered by groups representing local government employees, including the New Jersey Association of Counties.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle, including Senate President Nichola Scutari and Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho, had pushed for the initial proposal to be rejected.
A vote had initially been scheduled for late July, but that was postponed.
AON, the actuarial firm used by the state, has recommended the increased premium rates.
The State Health Benefits Program Plan Design Committee does not approve the health benefits rates, but they have the authority to alter the benefit plan. The commission, which is a different entity, approves rates but cannot change the benefits.