Lawmakers: State Health Plan makeover too costly

April 24, 2009 5:45:00 AM PDT
Nearly 700,000 workers and retirees are covered by the North Carolina's State Health Plan, which could soon run out of money.The lawmakers' solution will cost about $700 million. For Republicans opposed to it, it's a very disturbing figure.

Click here to visit the State Health Plan Website.

Click here to read Senate Bill 287.

"There are several problems with it; primarily it's the amount of money that it costs," said Senator Phil Berger, R-Rockingham County.

To keep the health plan running, the fix draws $250 million from a rainy day fund. GOP leaders are upset with the overall price tag and the individual costs.

The state pays premiums for employees, teachers and retirees but not their dependents. Those premiums could rise 10 percent.

"It's raising premiums on dependent coverage, including those for younger, healthier workers, and we need those desperately into the plan for the long-term viability of the plan," said Senator Paul Stam, R-Wake County.

Supporters say when it's all said and done, premiums for dependents will rise by seven or eight percent.

"Which is generally right in line with the industry costs of healthcare going up, so I don't think that holds any water," said Representative Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson County.

Lawmakers like Stam and Berger are likely to stand against any health plan fix that costs that much. But Democrats in the House and the Senate are trying to iron out smaller differences to get a fix passed.

Still up for debate is whether to raise premiums for smokers and the obese and whether to put enrollment in the plan on a calendar and not fiscal year, which would make it easier for participants.

"Hopefully, we can come to pretty quick agreement," Holliman said.

Some will certainly be unsatisfied with any agreement. And in the long-term, those pushing current bills agree the entire State Health Plan needs a makeover.


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