State workers deserve answers about health coverage

January 6, 2014 

State employees and retirees want reassurance, and they deserve it. That’s the bottom line on an ongoing problem with confusion over health care.

For months now, enrollment in the State Health Plan has been confusing, and too many workers have not gotten the cards that enable them to access medical care. It’s not a case of the state’s being negligent, exactly, but the process has been unnecessarily fretful for some of the 660,000 state employees and retirees.

The State Health Plan is a covenant between the state and its employees, and it needs to be honored.

Will it be? Most certainly, says State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who oversees the plan. The legislature transferred that oversight from lawmakers to her, with Cowell’s arguing that it was more appropriate to have her office involved.

But this problem with the cards will be an important test, in the minds of state workers and retirees at least, as to whether the change was wise. It was criticized by some as a “power grab” on Cowell’s part.

Workers have had to endure rising anxiety, and that no doubt has been made worse by the unrelated glitches in federal health care reform. Americans and North Carolinians are more mindful than ever of the crucial need for access to health care. One can’t blame state workers for worrying.

The state needs an ongoing examination of the system, and it needs to be able to assure and reassure people that the problems will not be repeated in the future, while being nimble enough to fix difficulties as they come up.

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