The NFA's Sondra Cosgrove, of CSN, filed this report from Carson City, Monday, May 9.
The Joint Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committee voted to accept the Public Employees Benefits Program changes. There was spirited debate over these changes, but without any extra funding, there were few alternatives available. Two issues received the most attention: southern HMO participants subsidizing northern HMO premiums, and the number of sacrifices public employees are being expected to shoulder.
A number of committee members asked why the northern and southern HMO rates are being “blended.” The Executive Director of the PEBP Board stated that the Board felt it was an equity issue; that all employees should be treated equally. Assemblypersons Maggie Carlton and Marcus Conklin specifically rejected this argument and asked why participants are not paying only for the services they themselves receive.
It was explained that the HMO contract is more in the north than in the south, so up to now northern HMO participants have paid a higher premium than southern participants. Under the PEBP Board changes, the southern premium will be going up more than is warranted under the southern contract to keep the northern premium from going up even more. Some of the southern legislators (not all) voted to not allow this blending, but they were unsuccessful.
It was also noted that, in addition to these drastic changes to health, retirement, and life insurance costs, public employees also are being asked to accept a 5-percent salary reduction. Many committee members noted that this seemed to be a disproportionate share of the sacrifice, but without any other funding, nothing could be done to ameliorate this inequality.
A motion to send a Letter of Intent to PEBP Board asking them to review this item failed on a close vote. However, the PEBP Board has a mechanism to offer some temporary relief if it has the funding to cover it.
In addition, Governor Sandoval's plan to cut the health subsidy for part-time state workers – which would have affected higher education more than any other entity – failed in a close vote.