TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph V. Doria and Joseph C. Coniglio which would require vendors bidding on or performing a State contract to provide health benefits to their employees was approved by the Senate State Government Committee by a vote of 4-1.
“So many of New Jersey’s working poor, and even the middle class, cannot afford decent, quality health care for themselves and their families,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson. “Quality health care should not be treated as a luxury in this country — it should be treated as a basic human right. We need to demand a higher standard from our State contractors if we’re ever going to address this class disparity that currently exists in today’s society between those who can afford good health and those who cannot.”
“Something has to be done in response to the increasing number of New Jersey employees with no health insurance,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “By requiring all State contractors to provide these benefits, we can set a precedent for the rest of the country to follow.”
The bill would provide that for any contract which would be paid for from State funds, any party bidding on or performing the contract would be required to provide health care benefits to any employee who works on average 25 hours a week. Health care benefits would include: basic hospital expense coverage for a period of 21 days each year for each covered person; basic medical-surgical expense for each covered person; maternity benefits, including cost of delivery and prenatal care; and out-of-hospital physical exams, including related X-rays and diagnostic tests.
“The health care benefits we’re talking about here can best be described as no-frills,” said Senator Doria. “We’re not forcing contractors to put their employees up at a wellness spa for six weeks out of the year. We’re simply asking that when State money is involved, the contractor should contribute a reasonable and responsible portion to an employee’s health care costs.”
Senator Coniglio added that currently, employers who do offer health care benefits lose out in State contracting, because employers who do not offer benefits can submit a lower bid and are more likely to win a State contract.
“As it stands, contractors that do not provide employees with health care benefits are at an advantage because they can submit lower bids,” said Senator Coniglio. “While New Jersey might ultimately have to start accepting higher bids for contracted work under this bill, the State already pays the cost of uninsurance, through subsidized health care programs for the working poor and the hidden costs of a contract in terms of lost days of work for sick employees.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration, before going to the General Assembly for approval.