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Sweeney Joins with NJEA in Landmark Agreement to Realize Health Care Savings

Plan Will Produce More Than $1 Billion in Annual Savings for Property Taxpayers & Educators

Trenton –Senate President Steve Sweeney and Marie Blistan, the President of the New Jersey Education Association, joined together to announce a landmark agreement that will produce more than $1 billion in annual savings for taxpayers and educators by providing a new health benefits plan with reduced contributions by NJEA members and major cost savings for local property taxpayers.

“I am pleased to announce a landmark agreement on healthcare benefits with NJEA President Marie Blistan,” said Senator Sweeney. “Marie has been a tough negotiator and coming to an agreement that benefits educators and taxpayers is what we always wanted. The agreement is the result of several months of intense negotiations and represents a culmination of several years of efforts to identify opportunities to address the quality of healthcare while dealing with the reality of its skyrocketing costs. This agreement is a win-win for New Jersey taxpayers and educators that will deliver estimated savings totaling more than $1 billion annually.”

“This is the culmination of a very long process. It was not easy, but the work we have done together is a major victory for both our members and all the other taxpayers of New Jersey,” said Ms. Blistan. “It is no secret that our members have suffered a great deal under Ch. 78, which imposed unsustainable and ever-growing health care costs on them. With this creative, collaborative approach, that burden is greatly reduced, and our members no longer need to fear that their take-home pay will decrease year after year as a result of those imposed contributions. It is another example of the kind of win-win solutions we can achieve when we come together determined to make progress.”

The seven-year plan will address the issues of cost, quality and health wellness simultaneously. The annual savings are expected to be $670 million for local school districts and $403 million for NJEA members.

The savings will be driven largely by the creation of the new New Jersey Educators Health Plan. This plan will replace most other plans currently being offered to teachers and provide comprehensive coverage for medical and pharmacy benefits with reasonable member copayments for physician care and 100 percent coverage for the use of in-network providers.

New members coming into service and those electing to switch to this new plan will see their payroll deductions tied to a new contribution schedule, based on a percentage of salary as opposed to a percentage of premiums, as opposed to the currently required percentage of premium. Those electing to stay in the SEHBP’s more traditional plans will be required to pay more for their healthcare based on a percentage of their premium as determined under Chapter 78 requirements.

The agreement also calls for the creation in 2021 of the new Garden State Health Plan, which will offer NJEA members the voluntary option of a plan that produces even more savings with a network of New Jersey-only healthcare providers. It will provide provisions for out-of-state care not available in the state.

“In addition to this new plan, the NJEA and I have agreed to work on another plan design that we call the Garden State Health Plan,” said Senator Sweeney. “This plan will offer NJEA members the voluntary option of a separate plan that produces even more savings with a network of New Jersey-only healthcare providers. The level of benefits will match that of the NJEHP and will be tied to New Jersey providers who deliver care at quality standards at or superior to what is available outside the area.”

Estimates suggest care delivered outside of New Jersey is 50 percent to 100 percent more than the same services offered by New Jersey providers for the same or better quality.

The agreement would also require the SEHBP to continue to promote and look to further expand the use and availability of patient centered medical homes inside the SEHBP.

Senator Sweeney praised Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin for his efforts in getting the NJEA to the table.

“This agreement would not have happened without Speaker Coughlin asking me to sit down with the NJEA to work out an agreement,” said Senator Sweeney.

Senate President Sweeney also agreed to support two Educational Support Professional (ESP) bills and help move them through the Legislature (S1928 – on Subcontracting and S993 on Due Process).