Legislative Committee Rejects Health, Dental, Disability Insurance Enhancements on Party-Line Vote

Earlier today, the Republicans on the Legislative Joint Subcommittee on Employee Relations (JSER) voted down the contract agreements that included the improved health and dental insurance benefits agreed to by the State and the public sector union health insurance coalition, which includes the IFO. We sent an email a few weeks ago outlining the improved health, dental, and disability insurance benefits. Below, you will find information on what will go into effect as of January 1, and what will not, now that Republican legislative leaders on JSER voted down the agreed upon changes.

JSER is the legislative committee responsible for reviewing contract agreements when the full legislature is not in session. The JSER vote against the union contracts means that many of the health and dental plan improvements will not go into effect on January 1, 2018. JSER voted down the agreed upon 2017-2019 contracts for AFSCME and MAPE, which included the benefit enhancements and a 2% pay increase in FY18 and a 2.25% increase in FY19. 

This is not the end of the line for these improvements; they may be brought back to the Legislature for approval during the 2018 legislative session that begins on February 20.
Health and Dental Insurance Coverage
Not Going Into Effect:

  • Because of JSER’s action, faculty will continue to pay a co-pay for using a convenience clinic or the online service Virtuwell for health care services. If JSER had adopted the agreed upon changes, you would no longer be required to pay a co-pay for using these services.
  • In addition, faculty will not see the improvements in dental coverage on January 1, 2018. Sealants will not be covered as a preventive and thus you will be required to submit a co-pay. Orthodontia benefits will no longer become available to all participants, meaning there will remain an age limit for orthodontia benefits. Implants will not be added as a covered benefit.
  • All dental benefits that are currently paid at only 50 percent, will remain at the same level of coverage. JSER approval would have changed the coverage to 80 percent.
  • And finally, the annual maximum amount paid by your dental insurance will not increase. It was set to increase from the current maximum of $1,500 to $2,000 per year, had the contracts been approved.
  • In part to cover the cost of plan improvements, the employee’s share of the dental insurance premium for single coverage was scheduled to increase (from the current amount of $5.00 per month) to $13.50 per month. Your share of the dental insurance premium for single coverage will not increase unless and until the dental plan improvements are approved.

Still Going Into Effect:

  • The Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) pilot program that is aimed at improving the health of state employees and dependents who have chronic health conditions will go into effect as planned. The pilot will begin on January 1, 2018, and will cover those who have been diagnosed with Type I or Type II diabetes (excluding gestational diabetes).

    As part of the new program, faculty and dependents age 18 or older who have been diagnosed with diabetes or are prescribed an antidiabetic medication will be automatically enrolled in the pilot program, and will be able to purchase their diabetes-related prescription drugs (including drugs for cholesterol, hypertension, and depression) at a reduced co-payment amount. Participants in the program will have no or reduced co-payments for physician visits and deductibles will be waived for these services. There will be no co-insurance and the deductible will be waived for diabetes-related medical testing, and the co-insurance for diabetic medical supplies will be reduced to 10%.
  • Faculty will a see a relatively modest increase of 4.5% in the cost health insurance premiums for the 2018 plan year, which means that a faculty member’s share of the monthly premium for single coverage will increase (from the current amount of $30.66) to $32.04 per month and the share of monthly premium for dependent coverage will increase (from the current amount of $209.20) to $218.61 per month.

Disability Insurance

Not Going Into Effect:

  • The parties had agreed to a change in eligibility to apply for short- and long-term disability for faculty with contingent appointments who obtain probationary status. Had JSER approved the contracts, faculty with fixed-term appointments would have been able to enroll in short and long-term disability coverage without providing evidence of insurability, at the time they were hired into a probationary appointment. 

Still Going Into Effect:

  • Short-term disability coverage will be included in open enrollment this year, to be effective beginning January 1, 2018. This means that all faculty will have a one-time opportunity to be able to enroll in or increase short-term disability coverage without evidence of insurability.

We are proud of these achievements that were agreed upon in joint coalition bargaining which expand current health care benefits and keeps health care costs down for you and your family. We are deeply disappointed that on a party-line vote these agreed upon changes will not go into effect.

Our involvement in this process is dependent upon the support and advice of our members. If you are not a member, and wish to support this important work you can become a member here.