As reported by nj.com, the state’s largest public employee union said State Senate President Stephen Sweeney has released misleading information about how his health benefit overhaul will affect the pocketbooks of workers.
Sweeney wants to shift more of the costs of health benefits onto public workers. All state and local public employees would pay a percentage of their health care premiums in a tiered system based on their salary. The proposal would be phased in over four years. To support the proposal, Sweeney released a four-page chart that breaks down how the proposal would affect workers at various wage levels. The problem with the chart, according to Hetty Rosenstein, head of the Communications Workers of America, is that the chart assumes that premiums will remain flat at a time when they are increasingly rapidly.
As premiums rise, so will the amount public workers pay under the Sweeney proposal. But that is not reflected in the chart, Rosenstein says. “Sweeney assumes that health care costs will not go up a single dollar over four year, a deeply unrealistic claim that is all the more ironic given that his plan does nothing at all to implement cost containment strategies we know can save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” Rosenstein said.
For example, Sweeney’s chart claims that in the final year of his plan, a senior, professional employee making $70,000 would pay $4,180 in out of pocket costs for family coverage. But that figure presumes no increase in the cost of healthcare for the next four years. If healthcare premiums rise six percent a year, the same worker making $70,000 per year would actually pay $5,277 a year, Rosenstein says.
“New Jersey’s public worker unions offered Governor Christie a proposal at the bargaining table that would save New Jersey hundreds of millions of dollars, by shifting some costs onto workers-but also taking common sense steps that dozens of other states have shown can slow the rising costs of healthcare,” Rosenstein said.
Derek Roseman, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, said while the chart does not take into account rising premiums, it also doesn’t reflect that workers will be able to choose from a host of different plans. “Workers can adjust plans based on their own financial situation,” said Roseman.