Under the Dome

Draft of changes in state retirees’ health plan on tap

Draft legislation may surface as soon as Monday to help the state attack a $25.5 billion unfunded liability in its retiree health system.

According to a draft agenda, lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee are scheduled to review bill language Monday based on a staff report from earlier this year that suggested ways the state could reduce the liability in the Retiree Health Benefit Fund, which provides the state’s share of retiree premiums to the State Health Plan.

Possible strategies include requiring all eligible retirees to transition to Medicare Advantage plans, which would shift costs to the federal government and save the state about $64 million a year, according to the report.

Another recommendation was to increase what beneficiaries have to pay into the system.

Officials have projected the 30-year unfunded liability could grow to $37.5 billion by 2020 unless changes are made. The issues is mostly because of increased numbers of retirees; benefits not being covered in advance; and some employees being eligible for 100 percent premium coverage.

The committee is also set to resume a mixed review of how the state oversees supplemental insurance offerings.

For a third time, lawmakers on the panel will discuss a staff report presented in early October that labeled oversight weak, complex, costly and in need of reform.

Among perceived problems: there’s more than one place employees can go to sign up for supplemental insurance. In addition to NCFlex, a state-government-wide hub at the Office of Human Resources, many individual agencies have in-house committees that serve to connect their employees to the right products – which has led some to unwittingly sign up and pay twice for the same or a similar policy, according to the report.

It said also that some of the committees seldom meet or lack protective contracts with the insurance vendors they work with. Critics of the report, including some lawmakers, cast it as one-sided and questioned why it didn't also highlight employees satisfied with the system.

The State Employees Association of N.C. was among groups that said the agency-committee setup, in addition to NCFlex, means workers have choices. To centralize or simplify the supplemental offerings in one place, as the report encourages, could mean limiting that array, SEANC has argued.

Monday’s meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building on Salisbury Street in Raleigh.

Metro Mayors with new leaders

The Metropolitan Mayors Coalition has installed new leaders to further its message at the General Assembly.

The group, which represents the state’s more populous municipalities, at its annual meeting last week in Carrboro elected Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer as chairwoman and Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis as vice-chairman.

Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas will serve as treasurer, according to a news release.

With past chairwoman Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane rounding out the list of officers, an elected executive committee of mayors includes Concord’s Scott Padgett, Greensboro’s Nancy Vaughn, Rocky Mount’s David Combs, Kannapolis’ Darrell Hinnant and Charlotte’s Jennifer Roberts.

“The newly elected officers and executive committee will lead the Coalition in its work with the General Assembly, advocating for policies that create economic development, strengthen transportation networks and promote public safety,” said the release.

Benjamin Brown and staff reports

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