tell nj legislators:

Stop Healthcare Increases
Stop Tax Increases

YOUR TAXES WILL GO UP IF LAWMAKERS DON'T ACT QUICKLY!

The New Jersey State Health Benefits Commission authorized a massive hike in healthcare costs for public workers, impacting county, municipal, school budgets, and public employees. The only way to protect public services in a way that benefits everyone in New Jersey is for lawmakers to pass legislation to appropriate funds to local and county governments with a portion to be passed through to workers to give relief.

take action!

Send a message to your nj legislators

Click the link above and fill in information to send a letter to your legislators telling them:

You are concerned that local and county governments might have to raise taxes to cover the increased cost of health benefit premiums for workers. Calling on your legislators to publically support the cost-saving measures proposed by the State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee to help control future costs and vote to appropriate the $330 million dollars needed to provide relief to local and county governments and workers.


CALL THE HEALTHCARE ACTION HOTLINE

833-479-1993

TELL THEM: "My name is ______, I’m concerned about the huge increase in State health benefit premiums. I live in XXXX.

With the high cost of inflation and gas prices, I can’t afford the tax increase we’ll get hit with if the Legislature and Governor don’t appropriate the $330 million dollars needed to offset the cost of the increased healthcare premiums. Neither can local and county government workers.

I urge you to please provide the $330 million needed to give meaningful relief to workers, taxpayers, and towns."


ATTEND WEEKLY RALLIES EVERY THURSDAY UNTIL THIS CRISIS IS AVERTED

CLICK HERE for a rally location near you. Check back often as more locations are added.

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What does the increase in healthcare premiums for local and county government workers mean to you?

Your taxes will go up if the Legislature and Governor don’t act quickly.

Generally, health care premiums increase annually by about 5-8% for both employers and employees, and each pays the increased amount. This year, the rate increase is a whopping 24%! This is completely unaffordable for both employees in the plan and for local and county governments. In the majority of the towns that offer the State Health Benefits Plan, taxes will go up because they did not find out about the proposed increase until after their 2023 budgets were approved. The increase is being attributed to a surge in doctor visits and medical procedures in the past year, and inflation. During the first 2 years of the pandemic, most people put off medical procedures and avoided visiting their doctor so they wouldn’t catch Covid. Open enrollment is going on right now so we need action NOW!

If you are a local or county employee in the State Health Benefits Plan, your healthcare premiums will increase 21-24% unless the Governor and Legislature provide relief

While NJ State workers had reopener language in their contracts and were able to bargain to lower their premium increase, it doesn’t work the same way for local and county governments. For there to be relief for local and county government AND workers, the Legislature must pass legislation to appropriate funds in order to provide a subsidy to local and county governments with a portion to be passed through to workers. Then the Governor must sign it. The amount of the relief depends on how much is appropriated. Lawmakers could fund the whole thing, or not at all. Lawmakers could provide relief for local and county governments but not the workers. Lawmakers could provide some relief to both workers and local and county governments with both having to make up the difference. In the last scenario, taxes may still go up but not as much. Because workers are taxpayers too, they could get double the hit.


How much are the rates for the state health benefits going to increase if no solution is reached?

The proposed increase is 24% for Local Government workers in the most popular NJ Direct 10 and 15 medical plans. Rates are going up by 3.8% for prescription drugs for those local governments also with the SHBP prescription drug card.


Are 20-24% plus increases in health premiums for 2023 typical?

No. Large employers are seeing increases in the 6.0 to 8.0% range. The state’s consultant, Aon’s, national survey of major employers showed average 2023 premium increases of 5.6%.


Why is the health insurance rate increase so high?

The state’s consultant Aon is stating that the increase is due to inflation and “COVID Bounce Back,” but unions and some legislators have questioned the accuracy of Aon’s numbers and believe they have overestimated them.


Who approved the premium rates?

The 5 member State Health Benefits Commission voted to increase the premiums on September 14th. There are three management representatives and two union representatives appointed to the Commission. The three management representatives were the only votes in favor of the increase.

What could the proposed increase cost me?

If the state doesn’t agree to premium relief, workers could pay 24% more in payroll health contributions for medical (increases in prescription drug rates will add more.) The actual amount workers could lose depends on the type of coverage you have (single, family, etc.) and your income.

How much is needed to provide local and county governments relief and where will it come from?

To avoid tax increases, and to provide the same 3% increase in healthcare premiums, it will cost approximately $330 million dollars. The State has a $6 billion dollar budget surplus. They have $983 million dollars left in Covid ARP fund. When the deal for Horizon to convert to a non-profit mutual holding company happens and it will happen soon, the State will get $600 million dollars. It is not a matter of whether or not the State has the money, it’s a matter of will they or won’t they use it. The governor can only spend up to $20 million dollars without legislative approval. That means that lawmakers must write a bill and the legislature must pass it and then the governor must sign it in order for local and county governments, and workers to be bailed out.

Have the unions proposed any ways to achieve long-term health care premium savings?

Yes! The six union representatives on the State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee (PDC) have proposed several ways to achieve savings that do not include merely cost shifting to the workers. They attempted to pass these resolutions at the September 14th Plan Design Committee meeting. None of the six management representatives voted for a single one. These are summaries of the resolutions:


1. End contracts with nonperforming and underperforming point solutions. The Division of Pensions and Benefits (Division) currently contracts with over ten vendors to provide specialized services for topics such as weight loss or diabetes management. Often these services are billed either per member or per month or on a fee-for-service basis. The PDC resolution directs that the Division drop any solutions operating at a loss or not providing the expected return on investment with the assistance of the Validation Institute or similar entity. The resolution would also direct the Division to identify and employ the services of a vendor with a documented history of effective education of members about health, healthcare, and health benefits.


2. The State should direct OptumRx, the prescription drug plan manager to manage specialty medicines dispensed at medical facilities and billed through the medical portion of coverage as opposed to prescription plans. This area is prone to price gouging which can be curtailed with proper management. A presentation to the PDC last year indicated that $1.8 billion dollars savings was possible over three years if a medical specialty drug management program was implemented.


3. The PDC be tasked with identifying broad-based reference-based methods to achieve a minimum of 10% savings and issue a report on the findings by December 1, 2022.


4. The State should expand access to the First Responder Primary Care Medical Home (FRPCMH) Pilot by adding certain CWA and AFSCME titles. The direct primary care model promotes savings by reducing barriers to primary care doctors which promotes early detection of disease as well as consistent health management. The FRPCMH pilot bills on a fee-for-service model at a set rate which promotes cost control. Expanding access by adding titles will encourage increased utilization of primary care physicians which is expected to manage specialist utilization as well as downstream costs.


5. Create a State level claims stabilization reserve (CSR) fund similar to the CSR used for local government plans. The CSR is a fund to hold approximately two months of anticipated local plan claims payments to ensure the ability to pay claims. Although the State plans operate on a pay-as-you-go scheme, a state-level CSR would readily show the accuracy of Aon’s projections- specifically if rates are set too high. Traditionally, the Local Government CSR would grow well beyond the two-month target (indicating premiums were too high), and the overage would be used to reduce premium increases to local plans. Aon’s Rate Renewal Report for 2019 showed that the state plan had an overage or “gain” of over $110 Million dollars. In 2020, there was a gain of $191 million dollars. That money should have gone in a State CRS fund.


6. The PDC proposed a resolution that they and the Division should participate in an assessment to determine if the contract should be continued or terminated with the assessment to be completed by December 1, 2023. If the contract is continued, an RFP should be issued by January 1, 2023. The contract is subject to an ongoing 2021 Contract Compliance Audit Unit complaint; neither Horizon nor Aon has been able to certify the promised annual savings. Fees alone for this contract are over $100 million dollars with the value of promised but unrealized savings from this program being in the hundreds of millions of dollars.