State workers’ health plan needs added $83 million

abeam@thestate.comJanuary 23, 2014 

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com Buy Photo

  • State health plan options

    The state health plan needs an additional $83 million to keep up with the rising cost of health care. Lawmakers are considering several options:

    If benefits stay the same ...

    And employees and taxpayers split the increase:

    Cost to general fund: $60.6 million

    Employer premium increase: $19.88 per pay period

    Employee premium increase: $7.04 per pay period

    And employees pay the full increase:

    Cost to general fund: $45.1 million

    Employee premium increase: $26.92 per pay period

    And employers pay the full increase:

    Cost to general fund: $66.2 million

    Employer premium increase: $26.92 per pay period

  • More information

    And employees and taxpayers split the increase:

    Cost to general fund: $53.6 million

    Employer premium increase: $12.80 per pay period

    Employee premium increase: $4.54 per pay period

    And employees pay the full increase:

    Cost to general fund: $43.6 million

    Employee premium increase: $17.34 per pay period

    And employers pay the full increase:

    Cost to general fund: $57.2 million

    Employer premium increase: $17.34 per pay period

    Source: Public Employee Benefit Authority

If deductibles and co-pays increase ...

The state health plan needs an extra $83 million to keep up with the rising costs of health care. But the question before S.C. lawmakers is who will pay that cost? Taxpayers, state workers or both?

Two years ago, state lawmakers voted to pay for 100 percent of the increase, only to be overruled by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and the State Budget and Control Board. But state workers and retirees sued and won.

Last year, state lawmakers again voted to pay for 100 percent of the increase. But, to soften the blow to taxpayers, they made state workers pay more to go see a doctor by increasing their co-pays.

This year, Haley — who is running for re-election — wants to increase co-pays again. But taxpayers would pay 100 percent of the premium increase, or $57 million.

“We’ve been consistent that the employee and employer should split the rising cost of employee health care,” said Christian Soura, Haley’s deputy chief of staff for budget and policy.

House lawmakers have not decided what they will do yet.

They heard several options Wednesday from the Public Employee Benefit Authority, including premium increases and benefit changes. They also heard about a new health plan with a high deductible and a health savings account option that would make the state health plan compliant with the federal Affordable Care Act by offering a wide array of preventative coverage.

“I don’t like the choices,” said state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, chairman of the House budget subcommittee that oversees the state health plan. “It is very difficult to balance picking up the added expense of health care when (state workers) also want pay increases.”

The state health plan covers nearly 450,000 people, almost 10 percent of the state’s population. The plan covers state workers, public-school teachers and local government workers, including public safety officers.

S.C. employees pay for about 27 percent of the cost of the state health plan. The average for employees in other states is about 20 percent, according to Travis Turner, interim director for the Public Employee Benefit Authority.

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a member of the subcommittee, said she wants to give workers a raise and cover their higher health-care costs. But, she acknowledged, the House of Representatives will not do that.

“The bottom line is by the time we give them a raise, if we don’t cover their health care ... the raise in effect goes toward paying the cost of their health care,” she said.

Carlton Washington, executive director of the S.C. State Employees Association, noted lawmakers will have more then $400 million in new money to spend this year. It costs about $15 million to give state workers a 1 percent raise — $31.9 million when you factor in employees whose salaries come from federal and other funds.

“It just seems to me that legislators should be able to find a way to take care of their employees,” Washington said.

State health plan options

The state health plan needs an additional $83 million to keep up with the rising cost of health care. Lawmakers are considering several options:

If benefits stay the same ...

And employees and taxpayers split the increase:

Cost to general fund: $60.6 million

Employer premium increase: $19.88 per pay period

Employee premium increase: $7.04 per pay period

And employees pay the full increase:

Cost to general fund: $45.1 million

Employee premium increase: $26.92 per pay period

And employers pay the full increase:

Cost to general fund: $66.2 million

Employer premium increase: $26.92 per pay period

If deductibles and co-pays increase ...

And employees and taxpayers split the increase:

Cost to general fund: $53.6 million

Employer premium increase: $12.80 per pay period

Employee premium increase: $4.54 per pay period

And employees pay the full increase:

Cost to general fund: $43.6 million

Employee premium increase: $17.34 per pay period

And employers pay the full increase:

Cost to general fund: $57.2 million

Employer premium increase: $17.34 per pay period

Source: Public Employee Benefit Authority

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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