NJ public sector workers are facing a big increase in their health insurance premiums in the coming year

Hundreds of thousands of public employees, retirees and school employees in New Jersey are facing up to a 24% increase in health benefits under proposals being considered by the State Health Benefits Commission.

The proposed rate increases include a 24% increase in medical and a 3.7% increase in pharmacy benefits for medical workers, as well as a 15.6% increase in medical and a 26.1% increase in pharmacy benefits for government workers who retired early. age. 65, according to an email sent to county administrators from New Jersey Association of Counties Executive Director John Donnadio.

Donnadio said in an email that the figures, which were not disclosed, were shared with insurance and benefits.

New Jersey Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino acknowledged that interest rates are being considered and added that rates for active and retired members are expected to rise between 12-20% for various plans next year.

A vote to approve the rate increase was scheduled for Monday, but the state health board and Division of Pension and Benefits postponed the vote after acknowledging at a public meeting on July 13 that more time would be needed to address questions and concerns, Sciortino said. he said.

“As has been official policy for many years now, the presentation materials submitted to the State Health Benefits Program and School Employees Health Benefits Program Commissions last week are confidential until the rates are finalized,” Sciortino said.

The New Jersey League of Municipalities on Wednesday sent an email urging members to contact their representatives and the governor’s office, prompting an outcry from state and local governments, as well as Democratic and Republican state lawmakers.

“This is a significant increase that will result in taxpayers, government workers and teachers being overpaid at a time when we are all struggling with a recession and a recession,” said New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari, Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz and Senate. Budget chairman Paul Sarlo said in a joint statement.

Democratic state officials urged the agency to reject the request and called on New Jersey Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio to use her authority to block the approval “and ensure that the full accounting of these two health plans is transparent and comprehensive. They discussed it.”

Republican leadership in the state Legislature on Thursday convened a special legislative committee to investigate the administration of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy for “failing to control health care costs for government employees, retirees and taxpayers.”

“The 24% increase given to many working people will take thousands out of their paychecks each year and cause local governments to spend more money that could result in higher taxes for struggling families,” said Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho, R-Sussex. , he said in his speech. “We need to investigate the failures that led to this dramatic increase in order to create a better plan for the future.”

The increase reflects new information on the Murphy administration’s decision to block an attempt to restore $34 million in federal funding to Horizon for an austerity program that outside consultants found “not cost-effective,” according to the a report from Bloomberg.

Horizon manages health plans for state and local employees and retirees in New Jersey.

“It’s a disgrace that federal officials have taken steps to prevent Horizon from being prosecuted because the bill is expected to rise,” Senate Republican Budget Director Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said in a statement. “Employees, retirees, and taxpayers need to know why.”

Sciortino said several “surprising factors” are affecting prices for the coming year, including increased use of health care during the COVID-19 pandemic and the return to work and procedures that were previously suspended.

The situation is exacerbated by rising costs amid chronic inflationary pressures that have increased health care costs across the country.

“Although there is great instability in the medical field, the increase in the number of Government policies is consistent with the increase in the level that our consultants’ other clients are facing and it is also reported throughout the country,” said Sciortino. “We believe that this is a crisis, rather than a normal situation, and we believe that it is possible for the use and the cost to be normalized.”

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