Under the Dome

Vote on State Health Plan delayed amid protests

Controversial proposals to phase out one of three state employee health plans and eliminate insurance coverage for workers’ spouses will not be resolved this week.

The State Health Plan’s board of trustees will be voting on 2017 benefits on Friday, but will not discuss those proposals, as had been planned, the state Treasurer’s Office said Wednesday. Those decisions will be made later, according to the office, which administers the state employee health insurance programs.

The plan under consideration for phasing out is known as the Enhanced 80/20, in which about 280,000 active teachers and state employees are enrolled.

The trustees discussed removing spouses from coverage as a potential way to save money, according to spokesman Brad Young. But the board doesn’t have the legal authority to do that, and will not be asking the General Assembly to make that change in eligibility, Young said.

The legislature last year ordered the State Health Plan to reduce expected increases in costs to the state for the 2017-19 budget, while maintaining reserves. Young said the board will have to consider options for meeting that directive.

“The State Health Plan looks forward to working with the General Assembly on a solution that will maintain the financial stability of the State Health Plan while providing meaningful benefits to teachers and state employees,” Young said in a statement.

A public service workers union local and the N.C. Association of Educators called a news conference for Thursday in Raleigh to denounce the proposals.

“State workers are already struggling to get by on low wages from paycheck to paycheck,” said Larsene Taylor, president of U.E. Local 150 and a health-care technician for the state. “Now these drastic changes in our out-of-pocket health care expenses are going to force us to choose between food, paying our light bill, or eviction. These changes will make our coverage the worst in the nation.”

The Democratic Caucus of the state House of Representatives issued a statement opposing the potential changes.