A proposal to overhaul health insurance plans for teachers at public schools in New Jersey recently advanced in Trenton after being unanimously approved by both the Assembly and Senate.
The legislation, A-20/S-2273, would not only lower the cost of health benefits for public education employees but also increases healthcare options, now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy, who tweeted that he plans to sign the bill into law.
The bill, which stems from an agreement with the New Jersey Education Association, provides public education employees with two lower-cost health plan options, allowing a choice of three plans. It also reduced premium rates to a low of 1.7% for single coverage and up to 7.2% for family plans, based on salary.
It would replace Chapter 78, which called for employees to cover anywhere from 3% to 35% of the premium, based upon how much they earn.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, one of bill’s sponsors, estimated the change could save more than $1 billion a year for teachers, as well as for local and state governments.
In a press release, the Democratic senator said, “Now more than ever, it is important that we find ways to produce savings for taxpayers and educators. While we focus on the immediate threat to public health and economic stability brought on by the global pandemic, this agreement will produce meaningful and lasting financial benefits at the same time it preserves quality health care for public workers.”
Measure is ‘A Win-Win’
In a statement released following the Assembly’s vote, the bill’s Democratic sponsors, which includes Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19), called the measure “a win-win.”
Assembly Democrats said it restores “fairness” to health benefit contributions and provides “much needed relief to New Jersey taxpayers.”
The bill’s Republican sponsors, Assemblywoman Betty DeCroce (R-26) and Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12), said they were proud to advance the legislation.
DeCroce said, “Anytime we have an opportunity to make living and working in New Jersey more affordable for everyone, the opportunity must be seized.
“When we can provide savings for public employees and taxpayers in one bill, we are doing our job,” Dancer said.
NJEA Praises Passage
The bill’s passage follows a years-long campaign by the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) 200,000 members who have sought relief on the cost of healthcare.
“Because of how we all came together, our schools will be stronger and our members will be more secure as we head into the serious challenges ahead,” NJEA President Marie Blistan said in a statement.
“We are proud to have worked with so many elected leaders, particularly Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin. We look forward to standing with both of them and with Gov. Murphy when he keeps the promise he made to our members to sign these bills,” she said.
In a statement shared with the New Jersey Education Association, Murphy said, “With our state facing historic public health and economic challenges, it is more important than ever that we ensure access to high-quality, affordable healthcare for our educators, while also ensuring cost-savings for our taxpayers.”