New Healthcare Proposal for NJ Teachers
Details of the Legislation, How It Effects Your Wallet as a Public Educator and Where the NJEA Stands
There is a political storm brewing in the New Jersey senate. While that statement might typically invoke an eye roll and a yawn of indifference, as a public-school teacher in NJ, this proposed legislation directly impacts your healthcare benefits and what you pay out of pocket. Although healthcare legislation isn’t a new topic, the debate over power, politics and premiums has reached a boiling point in NJ leaving many public educators on edge about the future of their healthcare benefits. So what is the new healthcare proposal for NJ teachers that is causing a stir in the senate?
Current Proposed Legislation
Newly proposed legislation is raising some eyebrows on the floor of the NJ Senate. Assembly Speaker, Craig Coughlin will soon introduce a new proposal that would significantly reduce the cost of healthcare benefits for public school teachers. Recently, Coughlin issued a statement saying, “This legislation provides significant reform and savings for New Jersey residents.” Coughlin goes on to say, “The bill guarantees state and local taxpayers with at least $300 million in savings while providing fairness and maintaining public school employees’ and retirees’ access to high quality, affordable health coverage that is best for them and their families.”
The proposal is aimed at providing relief for public employees that are enrolled in the School Employees Health Benefits Plan (SEHBP) that have experienced rising premiums as a result of the state overhaul of health benefits under the leadership of former Governor, Chris Christie. Most of these teachers are enrolled in the NJ Direct 10 benefits plan, which has an annual cost of $37,905. The current plan comes with co-pays of $10 with an out-of-pocket max of $1,000 for families. Craig Coughlin’s newly proposed healthcare benefits plan would reduce the cost of healthcare benefits for public educators by 15% cutting the annual cost from $37,905 to about $32,000. The proposed changes would reduce the cost of healthcare benefits for local school districts by $200 million, and the state would potentially save $100 million in healthcare benefit costs for the current 107,000 retired teachers.
NJEA Stands Strong
The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is a very powerful organization and has publicly shown its strong support of the newly proposed healthcare benefits legislation that has been introduced by Craig Coughlin. The NJEA is very much in favor of the proposed legislation, which would allow public school teachers to pay a smaller percentage of their salary to cover the cost of their healthcare benefits ranging between 2-8%. The current law requires teachers to pay anywhere from 3-35% of their income on healthcare benefits depending on their salary. The NJEA is fighting for public school teachers because the leaders of the association understand that the rising costs of healthcare means the net income of teachers continues to fall. At times the fight can get personal. For example, in 2017 the NJEA invested $5 million to support a Republican attempting to unseat Senate President, Stephen Sweeney (currently opposes the new healthcare benefits legislation) in the South Jersey district that he currently represents. While Sweeney maintained his political power, the NJEA has clearly established its own power and influence in the public sector.
Political Power Struggle
Ironically enough, the political power struggle that has ensued has pitted two prominent democrats against each other. Senate President, Stephen Sweeney has made it clear that he does not support the newly prosed healthcare legislation that Craig Coughlin will bring to the floor of the senate. Both Coughlin (D-Middlesex) and Sweeney (D-Gloucester) have worked closely together and are usually on the same page. For example, they both rejected Phil Murphy’s (D-NJ Governor) initiative to raise the sales tax and the so called “Millionaires Tax” because both men did not see these political moves to be in the best, long-term interest of New Jersey residents.
This time around Sweeney is in direct opposition to the healthcare benefits proposal by Coughlin. Sweeney stated, “There’s zero chance of this bill going anywhere.” Sweeney continues by saying, “It’s frustrating, but elections sometimes make you make some decisions that might not be as good as they need to be.” It’s not too difficult to read between the lines of Stephen Sweeney’s comments when you consider the fact that there are 80 seats in play right now going into the November elections.
Currently, the democrats have a powerful 54-26 majority in the house, and Craig Coughlin intends to add even more democratic members. While Senate President Craig Sweeney may usually have the same pollical convictions as Speaker Craig Coughlin, Sweeney is pumping the brakes on the newly proposed healthcare benefits legislation. Sweeney goes on to say, “I appreciate the Speakers willingness to try to find a solution, but what he’s presented is really, really off the mark.” Sweeney continues, “I respect Craig (Coughlin) and I like him, but I’m not even going to consider this.”
Final Thoughts on Healthcare Proposal
While the Plymouth Rock Teachers Lounge refrains from taking a pollical stance, when there is proposed legislation that impacts public-school educators, it’s our responsibility to keep you informed. With prosed changes to your benefits, you may want to consider other coverage options as well.
Plymouth Rock Teachers’ Insurance Plan has insured NJ teachers for decades by providing home, auto and life insurance. In addition to comprehensive coverage, and exceptional service, Plymouth Rock provides significant premium discounts that you’ll qualify for as a teacher. Call Plymouth Rock today to speak with one of our friendly, knowledgeable representatives!