Senator Michael Testa today joined with hundreds of state and local employees in criticizing the Murphy Administration for their inaction to protect workers from as much as a 24% increase in their health care insurance costs. The State Health Benefits Commission is scheduled to hold a vote on the plan on Wednesday.
Hundreds of state and local workers rally outside the Statehouse on Sept. 13 to protest proposed hikes in health insurance premiums. (SenateNJ.com)
“The fact that these premiums are rising so quickly now is proof that the Murphy Administration was artificially tamping down the actual costs of health care while hoodwinking both taxpayers and workers,” said Testa (R-Vineland). “Private sector businesses had to deal with cost increases as they came, but the Governor chose to delay this hit on workers and taxpayers until a time of his choice. It’s bad planning made worse by bad faith.”
Premium rates for state and local employers and members participating in the State Health Benefits Plan (SHBP) and the School Employees Health Benefits Plan (SEHBP) likely will increase by 12% to 22%, depending on the selected plan according to the state Division of Pension & Benefits.
The proposed hikes have drawn criticism from both sides of the political aisle and has also incensed union leaders and rank and file workers demanding that Gov. Phil Murphy halt or reduce the likely price hike.
When news leaked of the potential premium hike, elected officials from both parties united to demand the state health board to reject the proposal or that state Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio to use her authority to block the planned approval.
In 2019, the Governor and Treasurer announced to great fanfare a new health care plan which would lower costs and rein in property taxes. They further noted that the new arrangement was “anticipated to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars” and result in savings for local governments in the form of decreasing premium rates.
“Here we are, now nearly a year after the election and now premiums are going up in direct contradiction to the Governor’s predictions. It’s awful to imagine that this effort was likely all a politically driven charade designed to help his reelection efforts,” said Testa. “However, whether it’s the issue of the state’s debt explosion, unauthorized checks to illegal immigrants, or nearly $100 million in pork projects for the favored few, anything is possible in Phil Murphy’s fiscal funhouse.”
When the proposed hikes came out in late July, Gov. Murphy responded to the news by telling reporters that the hikes were “largely formulaic” and that he and the Administration would continue to work with stakeholders to address the concerns. Nearly eight weeks later, the lack of action by the Administration has caused state and local employees to rally against the plan.
Republican leadership in the state Legislature have called for the creation of a special legislative committee to investigate failures by the Murphy administration that they say led to the premium increases.
“We should hold hearings into why this situation has so thoroughly unraveled under the Governor’s watch including the possibility that political ambition played a role,” said Testa. “People deserve action and answers, and they deserve the truth from the Governor, not just more spin and deflection.”