The Sacramento Bee
July 15, 2010
Public sector workers paying more of their health care costs
By Bobby Caina Calvan
Workers in private industry have felt the sting of rising health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for decades. Now, as government budgets bleed, public employees are starting to share the pain.
In the past year, Sacramento's largest school districts have trimmed health care coverage. Local and state government officials also are looking for ways to save.
And while public employee unions have made preserving health benefits a priority, they have been pressed to give ground or face more layoffs.
In his proposed budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is seeking to cut $152.8 million in health premium expenses by requiring the California Public Employees' Retirement System to offer lower-cost coverage, possibly with fewer benefits, or give the state authority to do so.
Health insurance costs have "reached the point where we can't sustain those benefits," said Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Personnel Administration.
Comment: Private employers have continued to shift more of the costs of health care to their individual employees. This has had deleterious financial and health impacts since it has made health care access less affordable. Now, even with union representation, public employees also are experiencing deterioration in their coverage.
That's a one-way street. Plans for public employees will never improve but will likely further deteriorate to match the 60 to 70 percent actuarial value plans to be offered by the state insurance exchanges.
"After all, why should we taxpayers have to buy these people good insurance when we have to put up with our lousy plans?" But those who express this sentiment have it backwards. Why should they have put up with crappy insurance when we could all have a program that works even better than most plans for public employees?
As we've said many times, the private insurance model doesn't work anymore. We can have that program that works for all of us, if we, as voters, demand it.