by Sandra Cosgrove
College of Southern Nevada
On Feb. 23 the joint Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee listened to a report by PEBP Executive Officer Jim Wells on proposed changes to the Public Employees Benefits Program. These are the changes we in NFA have been following since July, 2010. Three legislators specifically asked very probing questions regarding the impact these changes will have on participants. Senator Mo Denis, Assemblyman Marcus Conklin and Assemblyman Paul Aizley asked questions that indicate their serious unease with the proposed changes. Issues raised included:
1. Why is the state shifting healthcare costs to individual PEBP participants when the state agreed to pay these costs when participants were hired?
2. Why are public employees being subjected to pay reductions and substantial increases in healthcare costs? This seems to be a disproportionate level of sacrifice to be asked of one group of Nevadans.
3. Will these disproportionate sacrifices drive lower income state workers on to the welfare rolls?
4. Will these higher healthcare costs keep participants from going to the doctor and will this reluctance cause disease to go undiscovered until treatment options are very expensive?
5. Do higher utilization costs discriminate against participants with health issues?
6. Will healthy participants leave the program and opt to buy better private insurance?
7. Is there any guarantee that HSA and HRA monies rolled over from year to year won’t be taken back at some future date?
NFA Lobbyist Jim Richardson spoke about the impact on NSHE faculty and staff and asked the Committee to please consider adding more money to the PEBP budget. He reiterated the fear that low income employees will not be able to afford even basic healthcare for themselves and their families.
An AFSCME representative asked if healthcare providers will be required to provide price information to PEBP participants to allow them to really make consumer-driven choices. If we are expected to change our behavior based on knowing how much healthcare costs, then we need the actual dollar amounts charged for services.
Due to the many questions asked, the committee actually had to roll over the presentations scheduled after the PEBP report.