Hails win-win outcome on health care costs

On Monday, NJEA’s representatives on the School Employees Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) Design Committee, voted with the majority of the committee on a package of reforms that are projected to save the state hundreds of millions in the coming years. The reforms were the result of extensive discussions among all parties seeking ways to make healthcare more efficient and more affordable for employers and employees alike. NJEA President Marie Blistan issued this statement regarding the negotiated changes to the SEHBP:

“These changes are a great example of the win-win outcomes we can achieve when labor is viewed as a partner in progress and not an opponent. Providing affordable, high-quality healthcare for working people is one of the greatest challenges facing our state, and one of the most important things we must achieve. The reforms we helped negotiate with the state’s representatives on the SEHBP Design Committee will save hundreds of millions of dollars for the state while protecting the quality and affordability of our members’ health insurance coverage. The Murphy administration has demonstrated its commitment to working people by cooperating with us to achieve this outcome. We are confident that this is just the first step toward making high-quality healthcare more affordable for public employees and ensuring a stronger, healthier future for our state.”

The reforms announced today are the latest in a series of progressive, cost-saving health care reforms championed by NJEA in recent years. In 2016, NJEA championed a pilot program in the State Health Benefits Plan and the SEHBP to provide direct primary care medical homes to employees who choose to participate. Under that program, members get better access to their primary care physicians at lower out-of-pocket costs. Where this has been implemented elsewhere, the improved quality of primary care has led to overall cost advantages due to earlier detection of medical issues, better management of chronic health conditions and more efficient use of specialist care.

In 2017, an NJEA-led initiative to transform how the state manages bids to provide prescription drugs led to projected savings of $1.6 billion over three years, with the potential for additional significant savings into the future.

As a result of those union-led initiatives, the Division of Pensions and Benefits recently announced that the SEHBP premiums, including medical and prescription coverage, will decrease in 2019.

Gov. Murphy praised the cooperative effort to achieve this important agreement, and voiced his support for relief from the onerous financial burden that Ch. 78 places on public employees. “I thank New Jersey’s educators and public employees for coming to the table in good faith to negotiate ways to provide high-quality health care at the lowest possible cost, leading to improved delivery of health care for beneficiaries and significant cost savings for the state, local governments, and New Jersey taxpayers,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “As I’ve said from day one, I believe in the power of collective bargaining and negotiating in good faith with our workforce. Today’s agreement is a testament that this approach works – for the State of New Jersey, for workers, and for our taxpayers. “

We must also understand that public employees are part of the solution to the state’s fiscal woes, but sadly many are struggling to get by and provide for their families,” said Governor Murphy. “That’s why I’m calling on the Legislature to provide relief to firefighters, educators, police officers, and public workers from some of the most harmful effects of Chapter 78. By supporting middle class workers, we’ll help build a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all.”

FAQ: Changes to SEHBP health care coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees

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