Insurance 'fix' preserves legislators' own insurance, but not other part-timers | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Insurance 'fix' preserves legislators' own insurance, but not other part-timers

Posted By on Sat, Jun 28, 2014 at 4:36 PM

JIM HENDREN: Fairness not an objective.
  • JIM HENDREN: Fairness not an objective.
I posed a question today to legislators about the supposed "fix" pre-arranged for state school employees insurance at the special legislative session next week.

Is the plan still to drop 4,000 part-time school employees from coverage to save money. But NOT drop coverage of part-time state public employees on their side of the state health insurance plan (which gets a bigger contribution from the legislature and has much lower rates.)

Sen. Jim Hendren had defended the exclusion earlier in this explanation to Steve Brawner at Talk Business:

In an interview, Hendren said there are only 280 part-time state employees, many of them elected officials, and that removing them would not generate savings. Creating a fair resolution for part-time state and school employees was not part of the task force’s function. 


FAIRNESS WAS NOT PART OF THE WORK OF THE INSURANCE TASK FORCE.

Did you get that?

MANY OF THEM ELECTED OFFICIALS.

Did you get that?

Which elected officials?

I wondered whether a state legislator was a part-time public official. They are not full-time workers by my lights. At least 82 of them by my last count enjoy the Cadillac, more highly subsidized state employee insurance.

I wondered if part-timers were exempted from this fix on the pubic employee side to save state legislators' insurance coverage. Or at least to avoid even a question about it.

Turns out, not to worry. Legislators have themselves fully covered under another section of the code. They won't be losing any insurance coverage, part-timers or not. They still enjoy the bigger state contributions and lower rates that school employees dream about.

Do you think this is unfair? Tut tut. Remember:

Creating a fair resolution for part-time state and school employees was not part of the task force’s function. 

Hendren, you'll remember, has said the part-timers who'll be thrown off state insurance can just go on Obamacare. Hendren, you'll also remember, is among the Republicans vowing to kill Obamacare.

This "fix" comes at no cost to the state, which was the driving concern of people like Hendren. The new money comes from expropriating money that school districts use for other purposes. The "fix" also will force spouses of both insurance plans to get higher-priced insurance at their jobs. It will eliminate coverage of bariatric surgery that can produce huge savings in medical costs for obese people.

The legislature will, to use the cliche, just kick the can a few yards next week. And kick some thousands of school employees in the butt. (School employees are telling me their rates may not rise as much as anticipated, bu the size of deductible growth is so big for family coverage that they''ll essentially be self-insuring except for major expenses.) Legislators, however, apparently have covered their butts. Who said life was fair?

UPDATE: Hendren answers my questions on this issue. Bottom line, legislators were protected regardless.

Why are part-timers being dropped from school plan but not public employee plan?

Original recommendation was to drop from both plans. We had studied impact on PSE plan in detail. Estimates are that there are 4,000 part-time employees on PSE plan. There are also 4,000 more part-timer employees that are now eligible but not on plan. We saw significant increases in two groups over the last several years – Retirees, and Part-Time employees. If the trend continued and all 8,000 eligible part-time employees enrolled due to individual mandate implementation, it would cost the plan 35 million more dollars per year. Current enrollment of part-time employees cost the plan 10 million at the state (EBD) side and 7 million at the local school district side.

As we studied the ASE plan, we discovered only approximately 280 part-time employees on the plan. EBD stated that because of the plans they are enrolled in, there would be no saving to plan so the recommendation was not included in the final bill.

Do you include legislators in your number of part-time employees? If not, why not?

No – Legislators, like retirees, are made eligible in another section of the code. The only part of the code being modified is that which made employees who work less than 30 hrs per week (standard defined in Federal Law) eligible.

He did confirm that spouses of insured legislators will be treated like other spouses and have to get insurance where they work, if it is offered. So there's that.

DISCLOSURE PS: If I read correctly, it looks like I — spouse of a retired state employee — won't have to seek my company's problematic, higher-cost insurance as most other public employees will. I can stick with the better state plan. Retirees get special treatment along with legislators. Fair? Nobody said it was supposed to be.

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