Currently, many labor organizations representing public employees are negotiating collective bargaining agreements with the State of New Jersey. One of the most significant issues surrounding these negotiations involves the healthcare/benefit program provided by the State of New Jersey to its employees. Specifically, the State’s proposal regarding the dollar amount of employee contributions to the healthcare plan provided by the State, also known as premium sharing, has become vigorously contested by many labor organizations. As such, the State Health Benefits Program has again risen to the forefront of labor law consciousness.

 

The operation of the State Health Benefits Program (hereinafter referred to as “the Program”) is governed by the New Jersey State Health Benefits Program Act (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”), N.J.S.A. 52:14-17.25 to -17.45. The goal of the Act is to provide comprehensive health benefits for eligible public employees and their families at “tolerable” cost. In essence, it establishes a plan for state funding and private administration of a health benefits program which will protect public employees from catastrophic health expenses. In addition, it encourages public employees to rely on the Program instead of seeking protection in the commercial insurance market. Heaton v. State Health Benefits Commission, 264 N.J. Super. 141, 151 (App. Div. 1993).   

 

The Act also spawned the State Health Benefits Commission (hereinafter referred to as “SHBC”). The SHBC is entrusted to establish the Program by negotiating and purchasing medical, surgical, hospital, and major medical benefits for participating public employees and their families, “in the best interests of the State and its employees” as well as retaining exclusive jurisdiction to determine disputed matters under the plan. N.J.S.A. 52:14-17.27 to -17.28. The SHBC is entitled to establish rules and regulations as deemed reasonable and necessary for the administration of the Act. See N.J.A.C. 17:9-1.1 to -7.4. The Act also states that the SHBC may set forth limitations and exclusions in coverage as it finds necessary to administer the SHBP.

 

In undertaking a very consequential role in the financial security of public employees and their families, the State has the duty and responsibility to bargain fairly with them. Hidden or unfair reservations in insurance policies are ignored because they do not reflect the reasonable expectations of the parties. Voorhees v. Preferred Mut. Ins. Co., 128 N.J. 165, 175 (1992); Sparks v. St. Paul Ins. Co., 100 N.J. 325, 336 (1985). Because of the significance of health insurance to public employees and their families, and the Legislature’s undertaking to furnish insurance and determine its scope, one of the goals of the Legislature must have been to assure the fair and even-handed application of the Program provisions. Inevitably, the issue of premium sharing and its potential ramifications will certainly be followed by many public employees and labor organizations throughout the negotiation process to determine whether it is violative of the Program’s policies. 

 

Presently the state has proposed that all state civilian employees and law enforcement personnel contribute 1.5% of their salary towards health insurance. Certain state public employee labor unions and law enforcement labor unions have agreed to premium share at the 1.5% rate. However certain attorneys practicing labor law believe that there are constitutional issues with percentage premium sharing. We will follow this issue as it winds its way through interest arbitration and possibly the courts of New Jersey.  

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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog (www.njpublicsafetyofficers.com) approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.