TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner introduced legislation this week to address the proposed double-digit rate increases in health benefits for public sector employees and retirees and to prevent exorbitant rate hikes in the future.
The first bill, S-2994, would establish an annual reporting requirement for the State Health Benefits Plan (SHBP) Commission and the School Employees Health Benefits Plan (SEHBP) Commission.
Under the bill, each commission would publish a rate setting recommendation analysis report annually, prepared by an actuarial firm. The commissions would submit the reports to the Governor and the Legislature and the Division of Pensions and Benefits would post it publicly on their website. The commissions would then be required to accept public comments and hold at least one public hearing on the report.
“The rate increase proposal is very troubling and not only raises a number of questions, it also underscores the need for greater transparency. The bill I have introduced codifies the requirement for rate renewal reports to be completed, but includes a requirement for a public hearing and opportunity for public comment. Greater input from members and stakeholders will help to improve the analysis of the rate renewal process, provide context for rate increases, and uncover potential cost savings, as well,” said Senator Turner (Mercer/Hunterdon). “However, transparency is an absolute necessity for our taxpayers and members and we need to make sure this is not a case of greedflation. I will be working with member groups to enhance transparency of rate increase proposals with the goal of improving affordability.”
A second bill, S-2995, would appropriate federal COVID relief funds to the SHBP and SEHBP to reduce the anticipated increase in premium rates for calendar year 2023.
“We are experiencing the highest inflation rate in 40 years, and a double-digit increase in health benefits costs, when everyone is paying more for everything from rent to gasoline to groceries, will create a severe financial hardship on public employees and retirees. The cost of everything is going up except the paycheck,” said Senator Turner. “Retirees have had their promised Cost-of-Living increases frozen for the past 11 years and are already cash-strapped, so the rate hike will be particularly devastating for them. Since factors related to COVID are being pointed to as a reason for the rate increase, then COVID relief funds should be used to cushion the blow.”