Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, early retirees and school workers in New Jersey face a potential health benefit rate hike of up to 24% under proposals being considered by the State Health Benefits Commission.
A 24% medical care and 3.7% pharmacy benefit increase for active public sector employees is being considered, as well as a 15.6% medical care and 26.1% pharmacy benefit increase for government employees who retired before they reached the age of one. 65, according to an email to county administrators from John Donnadio, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Counties.
Donnadio said in an email that those bills, which have not been disclosed, were distributed by an insurance and benefits broker.
Jennifer Sciortino, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Treasury, acknowledged that rate hikes are being considered and added that rates for active members and early retirees are likely to increase by 12% to 20% in various plans in the coming year.
A vote to approve the rate hike was scheduled for Monday, but the state’s Board of Health Benefits and the Department of Pensions and Benefits postponed the vote after acknowledging at a July 13 public meeting that more time was needed to address questions and concerns, Sciortino said. said.
“As has been the formal process for many years, the presentation materials submitted last week to the State Health Benefit Program and School Employee Health Benefit Program committees are confidential pending final approval of the rates,” Sciortino said.
The New Jersey League of Municipalities sent an email Wednesday urging members to contact their representatives and the governor, prompting a public outcry from state and local governments, as well as Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari, Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz and the Senate: “This is a stunning increase that will put taxpayers, public sector workers and educators on the hook for higher costs at a time when we all struggle with inflationary pressures and a possible recession,” Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo said in a joint statement.
Democratic state senators urged the board to reject the proposal and called on New Jersey Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio to use her authority to block the proposed approval “and to make sure that the full accounting of the funding of the two health benefit plans is made public and complete.” discussed.”
Republican leadership in the state Legislature on Thursday called for a special legislative committee to investigate Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration’s “failure to control health care costs for public employees, retirees and taxpayers.”
“The proposed 24% premium increase for most active workers will take thousands more out of their paychecks each year and impose huge costs on local governments, leading to higher property taxes for struggling families,” said Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho, R-Sussex. , the statement said. “We need to examine the failures that led to these catastrophic premium increases in order to develop an effective plan.”
The proposed rate hikes put a new spotlight on claims that the Murphy administration rejected an attempt to recoup $34 million the state paid Horizon for a cost-savings program that outside consultants estimated had “produced no visible savings,” according to a Bloomberg report.
Horizon manages health plans for state and local government employees and retirees in New Jersey.
“It is absolutely scandalous that high-level administration officials are stepping in to prevent Horizon from being held accountable as premiums begin to skyrocket,” said Senate Republican Budget Officer Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “Employees, retirees and taxpayers deserve to know why.”
Sciortino said a number of “extraordinary factors” will affect next year’s rates, including increased use of medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic and a return to routine services and procedures that were previously postponed.
These factors are exacerbated by rising prices amid historic inflationary pressures that have driven up health care costs across the country.
“While there is considerable variation in health care trends, rate increases for state plans are consistent with rate increases experienced by our consultants’ other clients and reported nationally,” Sciortino said. “We believe these circumstances are more of an anomaly than the norm, and we believe a normalization of utilization and costs is more likely than not.”
Our press needs your support. Please order today NJ.com.