State Workers Should Pay More for Health Plan

By: Jim Saunders, Health News Florida
By: Jim Saunders, Health News Florida

Tallahassee, FL - A new Senate proposal would force many state employees to pay thousands a dollars a year more for health insurance --- or choose skimpier coverage.

The bill, filed this week to help carry out the Senate's budget plan, would provide $500 a month to help cover each worker's health costs, whether the worker is single or has a spouse and children.

For rank-and-file employees with family coverage, that would be about $500 a month less than the state provides this year.

The proposal, coupled with other changes in the bill, would save the cash-strapped state $351 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1, according to a Senate staff analysis. Gov. Rick Scott made a similar proposal in January --- though the House has not gone along with the idea in its budget plan.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said the proposal would be "devastating" for many state employees. He said they have not received raises in four to five years and also are facing legislative proposals that would force them to start contributing money to the state pension fund.

"There's a question of, how much can they take?'' said Montford, whose district is filled with state workers.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos' office did not respond to questions about the bill late Wednesday afternoon. But Haridopolos in the past has expressed support for making state-employee benefits more like private-sector benefits.

Some Republican leaders have pushed for increased use of what are known as "health-savings accounts.'' Those accounts build up money to pay out-of-pocket medical costs and are coupled with high-deductible insurance plans to pay catastrophic expenses.

Reducing the state's contribution for health insurance could spur more workers to use health-savings accounts and high-deductible plans. That is because such plans have lower premiums --- but also provide less coverage than traditional insurance plans.

The bill makes clear the state would spend a maximum of $6,000 a year --- or $500 a month --- on each worker and puts the onus on employees to cover the rest.

"Remaining premium requirements shall be the responsibility of the enrollee, based upon plan selection,'' the bill says.

The Senate Budget Committee likely will take up the proposal Thursday, along with dozens of other budget-related bills. Ultimately, the Senate and House would have to reach agreement on such a proposal before it could take effect.

Along with reducing the state's contribution for employee coverage, the Senate bill also would make several other changes in the insurance program. As an example, it would add a new actuarial requirement that likely would lead to higher premiums for retirees who buy coverage through the state insurance plan.

Also, the bill calls for the state to self-insure the plan, which offers a choice of coverage through preferred-provider organizations and health-maintenance organizations. The state already self-insures the PPO part of the plan but does not self-insure the HMO portion --- and a recent study said such a change would save money.

Many of the changes in the bill would take effect in January. Single workers would appear likely to notice little change if lawmakers reduce the money provided for health insurance.

That is because the state already pays $500 a month toward single coverage, with workers picking up $50 as their share. Employees with family coverage pay $180 a month this year.

Doug Martin, a lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the proposal likely would lead some employees to leave state government for private-sector jobs. He said health and pension benefits are a major reason that workers stay in state jobs.

"This (bill) is very, very short-term thinking,'' Martin said.

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  • by Worker Location: Fl on Apr 1, 2011 at 07:08 PM
    It seems that everyone is so into getting the state workers because they are paid by the tax payers. I am a state worker and I pay taxes. Does that matter? I guess not. We work hard and if they privatize yes we can apply but then Florida is still gonna be just as high of an unemployed rate due to the ones that lose their job to someone else is just another one that will draw unemployment paid by the tax payers so why rob Peter to pay Paul? For those who always are down on us how would you feel to never get a raise and everything keeps going up in the economy, our benefits have already went up on everything, oh thats right they want us to be out more so there will be more people to stop going out and spending money in our state which will again lead to more poeple unemployed. Let the state workers alone. I need my insurance I can't go without it, thats why I work to make a paycheck to pay for it. Thats why I work hard to keep my job, but now I don't know from one day to another if I will have one or have to sign up for unemployment. At least I know I will get that I have paid enough taxes and Social Security in my life I deserve that. Sad as it is I have always worked hard to make a living and if they take my job away I will find another one, if you look you will find one. Thats is always true for anyone. May not be what you want but it will be a job
  • by ??? Location: FL on Apr 1, 2011 at 11:09 AM
    Does this mean everyone who is on State ins. will pay, or just some of the state works? What about Judges, exempted positions etc. It should be equal across the board. I am a state worker and for DC, I don't mind paying, I do now (single mom) but everyone on ins. provided by the state needs to pay!!!
  • by FLGurl Location: Tallahassee on Apr 1, 2011 at 10:21 AM
    This is Great..they want State Employees to pay more for their Health let me get this, the people who go to work and pay for their insurance should have to pay more, but the people who sit home and get a welfare check and medicaid get their health insurance for FREE!!!! Real nice!!!
  • by Ironmaiden Location: GA on Apr 1, 2011 at 08:14 AM
    What a bunch of whiners! State employees in GA have ALWAYS contributed to retirement and health insurance. The insurance goes up every year and we have not had a raise in 5 years
    • reply
      by Anony on Apr 1, 2011 at 08:31 AM in reply to Ironmaiden
      Georgia probably pays more also. I know the teachers up there get paid more. State of Florida employees are one of the lowest paid in the US.
    • reply
      by Hey on Apr 1, 2011 at 11:54 AM in reply to Ironmaiden
      Hey, mind your own business!
    • reply
      by Chuck on Apr 1, 2011 at 12:46 PM in reply to Ironmaiden
      Exactly, OTHERS get paid more of a base salary in some states, such as Georgia You make it sound like we are high paid and rolling in the cash. I guess you would not say a word if your boss decided to make you pay money into something that you never had to do before......yeah, right!
  • by Anonymous Location: Tally on Apr 1, 2011 at 07:29 AM
    It wont be a breach of contract because you all will be FIRED and then "re-hired" by the PRIVATE company that takes over your place of business. If you work in a state prison, hospital, might want to WAKE up and realize that PRIVATIZATION is going to happen. It's no longer a matter of "If" it's WHEN>>>>and WHEN is SOON!!!!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 1, 2011 at 02:12 PM in reply to
      I think that's Mr. Scott's plan... Squeeze the state employees until they leave and\or privatize their program (fire them), so he can get more people off of the pension plan.
    • reply
      by The Man on Apr 1, 2011 at 07:30 PM in reply to
      I hired a private contractor to write this post.
      • reply
        by Lip Cheese on Apr 1, 2011 at 08:23 PM in reply to The Man
  • by DOC Phil Location: Inyourhead on Mar 31, 2011 at 09:30 PM
    No raise in 6 years, I have lived with that. Now, contribute to my retirement. I can understand that and I can live with it. But now I have very little left so I guess if the politicians need to raise my insurance, I quess I will have to drop it. After 30 long years, I now can retire and live well below the poverty level. I can get food stamps, welfare and Medicaid. I should be able to get Obama Care. One last thing, after 3 months in office, Rick Scott has not created one single job for the state of Florida but has managed to cut thousands.
  • by unmployed Location: louisiana on Mar 31, 2011 at 08:14 PM
    is it just me or do you think our elected officals have messed this country up to the max? the reason everything is being cut is the system has been abused so much that now we all must pay. BUT THIS JUST THE BEGINNING.
    • reply
      by Thom on Apr 1, 2011 at 07:42 AM in reply to unmployed
      Very true, but it appears Florida is targeting only a minute percent of the population (state workers) for the vast majority of sacrifice in this state.
      • reply
        by from me on Apr 1, 2011 at 07:17 PM in reply to Thom
        Well I can only agree with that. I think all the people who make over a certain amount should have to pay more for their medical and the ones that are married in the state should have to pay insurance just like everyone else. there is a lot of ways they can save besides hurting the little peons who work hard and do the work alone we are barely surviving as it is with the cost of living going up so much.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 31, 2011 at 07:53 PM
    Before you complain about what state workers have ask yourself if your safety is worth the $38 per year you pay for public safety, keeping criminals locked up, ability to get your drivers license renewed, protect your environment and natural resources etc. etc. etc. That's what we cost you. In other states it would cost you a whopping $69 each. By the way SES employees pay a portion of the cost of their health insurance just like everyone else. But the best and brightest will not be able to afford to remain in public service, especially the highly educated ones. The public's safety already suffers because of the inability to retain the best and brightest prosecutors. The judicial system suffers under the strain of new prosecutors and public defenders. Justice has become much more precarious in both the civil and criminal systems as a result.
  • by Gina on Mar 31, 2011 at 07:26 PM
    Just wait until these private businesses start suffering from the "triple down effect." There's going to be a lot of laid off workers in the private sector. Don't blame State employees when that happens. State employees were offered positions with the promise of guaranteed benefits. Without those benefits, it's not worth working 60 hours/week, no overtime, and no possible way to use comp time.
    • reply
      by David on Apr 1, 2011 at 03:09 AM in reply to Gina
      What is a "triple down effect"?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 1, 2011 at 04:39 AM in reply to Gina
      What is the "triple down effect".
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 1, 2011 at 05:59 AM in reply to Gina
      Ive heard of double down!
    • reply
      by DBags on Apr 1, 2011 at 07:30 AM in reply to Gina
      I believe she meant TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT....duh
    • reply
      by Sandra on Apr 1, 2011 at 04:45 PM in reply to Gina
      Maybe she did mean "triple down." (1) State worker has to pay more out of pocket. (2) State worker because of not having enough money has to limit shopping. (3) Publix, or some other business, sees business is declining and (3) lays off workers. Of course, the effect would keep going so it would be more than trickle or triple down.
  • by govt mule Location: tally on Mar 31, 2011 at 06:51 PM
    I read a tweet tonight that said this was tabled. I sure hope that is true. My wife and I are both State workers but she is due to retire in October. That will leave me to pay for the family plan while her pay will be cut in half. I don't think I can stand another $500 per month after they make me put 3% in the FRS. All these changes should only be allowed for new hires. Existing workers took the job based on the current salary and benefits package. Any change lowering pay or benefits for current public employees should be considered a breach of contract. I was like many others in Tallahassee for many years. I do have a decent job and appreciate the benefits but I took an initial $8000 pay cut to get them. I should not have to give them up now.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 31, 2011 at 09:35 PM in reply to govt mule
      I honestly don't know how it isn't a breach of contract... I took a $22k/yr. pay cut to come to the state for the security of the pension. Now that I'm vested, the pension plan that was offered is changing?
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