Some State Workers Don't See Health Cuts Coming

By: Brittany Davis, Health News Florida; La"Tasha Givens
By: Brittany Davis, Health News Florida; La"Tasha Givens

UPDATE

More than a thousand Florida Department of Health workers could soon be out of a job.

The Department has proposed a sweeping plan to reorganize --- and shrink -- its operations.

Eyewitness News reporter La'Tasha Givens has more on this 'spring cleaning' proposal.

"I just got finished with nursing school so ya know I thought my future was bright."

Claytonia Garrett is studying for state board examines scheduled for next month.

"I went in to nursing because I care, I'm a very caring person. I just have a heart to take care of people."

But she's now concerned about the job outlook, and that concern is being heightened for many Department of Health workers right now.

Michelle Dahnkey, DOH spokesperson, says, "The department on March 1st released our evaluation justification review in compliance with last year's House Bill 5311 that was passed. It asked us to look at the department's functions and asses them."

Some of the recommendations are to: eliminate 1608 department positions condense 50 bureaus into 18 and combine 11 divisions to 6.

Department officials say these cuts, along with other changes, is expected to save the state 22.3 million dollars.

"I definitely hope that they either find more funding or they figure out a way around the budget cuts."

"We would like to be reassuring we would like to let people know again this is just the beginning, that this is just a recommendation, we still need to get through the legislative session which starts next week and have those conversations with the legislature."

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THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 1, 2011 --

Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a deep cut in state workers' health benefits -- $7,000 a year for the most popular family plan -- but many state workers seem unaware of it.

Health News Florida discovered that while trying to gather opinions about the proposal.

"No ma'am, I haven't heard of that," said Heather Brown, an administrative secretary at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Sue Bruce, a personal secretary at the Florida State Courts, said: "I don't know much about what goes on across the state."

"I'm vaguely familiar," said John Tupps, information specialist at the Governor's Office.

On Feb. 7, Scott proposed that the state cap its contribution to employee health insurance at $5,000, whether the worker needs coverage for one person or a family of 10. If approved by the Legislature, the proposal would wallop the many state employees who have family plans that cost $14,000 or more a year.

Scott proposed it at the same time he announced he wants to require state workers to contribute 5 percent of their pay to their pension plans and during the same month that he visited state agencies to talk about massive layoffs. Those two subjects captured all the headlines.

So the gravity of the proposed health-insurance cut -- or even the fact that it has been suggested -- did not reach 11 out of 16 state employees HNF called Monday.

"There's probably not a single person in this office who knows anything about this proposal," said Steve Murray, communications director at the Department of Veteran's Affairs. "This just hasn't been a large part of the media coverage coming from Tallahassee."

The proposed cap, which would not take effect until 2013, is aimed at holding down the state's future health-care costs. During the 2009-10 fiscal year, the state spent nearly $1.8 billion on health benefits for 375,000 workers, retirees and family members.

But the proposal also fits neatly into Scott's political philosophy, in reducing the cost of government and shaping benefits to look more like those in the private sector.

The $5,000 contribution would apply to all -- not just young, single workers, but also to older workers and those with families. Now the state pays an average for family coverage of $12,000 per worker, so the $5,000 cap would save the state about $7,000 per employee.

The state pays about $6,000 for each single worker's coverage.

The change may push many employees into high-deductible plans combined with what are known as "health savings accounts,'' in which employees put aside part of their pre-tax earnings to save for medical needs in the future. Such plans give workers an incentive to shop for bargains in health care -- since whatever they don't spend they can keep. But if employers don't contribute to the savings account, some critics say, workers don't put enough money in to meet real needs.

The state already offers this option, but almost no employees use it.

During the 2009-10 fiscal year, when about 177,000 employees and retirees were in the state insurance system, only 1,334 chose the high-deductible plans with health-savings accounts, according to information presented to a legislative committee.

Those who participate in the high-deductible package receive upfront savings on their premiums. A rank-and-file worker who has single coverage pays $15 a month, compared to $50 a month in the standard insurance plans. A similar employee with family coverage pays $64.30 a month for the high-deductible package, compared to $180 a month for standard coverage.

The proposal mirrors the private sector shift from providing that specific items be covered -- "defined benefit plans" -- to fixed-dollar amounts that employees choose how to spend -- "defined contribution plans."

The downside to these plans, critics say, is that patients can get stuck with high bills if they encounter a serious illness before their savings mount enough to cover them.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Just Saying on Mar 5, 2011 at 03:01 PM
    TO Statedesksleeper:(is the name Statedesksleeper your job description?)I thought about it: you sell my kid drugs you better hope I don't find you- TO COOL: no Scotts pockets are not lined with hospitsl money-they are lined with stolen MEDICARE money
  • by Statedesksleeper on Mar 5, 2011 at 01:05 AM
    Hey guys if I lose my retirement and healthcare watch out because I may be the guy selling you kids drugs I'm going to takecare of my own even if it hurts urs....... Now think about that
  • by Huh? on Mar 5, 2011 at 12:57 AM
    Hospitals aren't going to make more money by law they have to treat you but no laws say you gotta pay. Now that's a good obamacare plain.
  • by Thinkaboutit on Mar 5, 2011 at 12:55 AM
    Here's a question? all this crying about "taxpayers" paying state employees you'd almost believe that state government were going to send them a refund. This isn't about stateworkers whining about getting more money and healthcare, news flash they want to be left alone. I've been with the state for a few years now and I'll tell you why some are so rude to you, dealing with about 500 of you morons a day wanting something done then complain because u had to wait and pay extra for two copies. So sit ur hemroid looking talk in the waiting chair and shut up. I hope after we stateworkers are gone they give ur jobs to the Chinese. See ya guys at the unemployment office bring a snack you might have to wait a while for you privet application haha I kill me.
  • by OlBoy on Mar 5, 2011 at 12:12 AM
    Something for you dummies that support Rick Scott. You think this is a good idea ha open your eyes fool who's gonna give u a bandaid when you have a hangnail and u cry yourself to sleep because the pain is to much for you. I hope you all lose everything u have so maybe you'll grow up and see youre a dummy. By the way we are changing LETS GET TO WORK to HOMLESS WILL WORK FOR FOOD and an IPOD
  • by leon Location: tally on Mar 3, 2011 at 07:48 PM
    A functional $7,000 per year pay cut? Um, considering the avg. state worker takes home something like $32,000, that brings their equivalent pay down to $25,000. Take off another 5% for the increase in pension contribution & it's $23,500. If they were *just* getting by on $32,000/year they won't be able to after losing another $7,000/year, not even in Tallahassee. There's no way a family of four will get by on $25,000/year, not without foreclosure or bankruptcy. Most of these families once had two incomes, but no more, and the poverty level for a family of four is $22,000. Most families will just drop their health insurance & try to wait for ObamaCare to kick in. Like any employer looking to shuck its costs off to the public, Rick Scott is just looking to transfer the costs upstream to the federal level. Looks like we have a winner.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 3, 2011 at 06:19 PM
    Cool, I am not wrong. Scott ran Columbia/HCA a chain of hospitals, not an insurance company. His plan is to end the practice of having the hospital giving the insurance companies deals on what they charge. This allows the hospital to charge all patients full price and this make the hospital more money. There is no oxymoronic (this is not even a word, but it is your word) statements here. His pockets are lined with hospital money, not insurance money.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 3, 2011 at 04:11 PM
    just don't go to the Dr. wait till it's so bad you have to go to the ER and all the Top Dogs that still have a job can foot the bill . I want pay it. They want to take everything away fine
  • by Anonymous on Mar 3, 2011 at 03:36 PM
    I'm vaguely familiar," said John Tupps, information specialist at the Governor's Office. He works for the Gov. office , The Gov. is doing this and this guy is vaguely familiar!!!!!!!!!!! INFORMATION SPECIALIST MUST NOT NEED MUCH EXPERIENCE
  • by Public Sector Location: TLH on Mar 3, 2011 at 02:22 PM
    @Anonymous on Mar 3, 2011 at 11:06 AM "Do not expect me to worry whether you or anyone else in Tallahassee has a job or not." It must be very liberating not to care about your fellow citizens. Let me give you something to care about. Cavemen didn't have unemployment compensation, food stamps, or other welfare to rely on. If 8000 people in Tallahassee lose their jobs, your tax dollars will be paying for them to sit at home instead of sitting at their desk. You pay for it either way. Wouldn't you rather they did something to earn it? 8000 people aren't going to leave their homes, families and spouses to try and find employment elsewhere, especially in this market where they could just as easily lose the next job.
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