Several labor organizers denounced a proposal Thursday to increase health insurance costs for North Carolina state employees at a rally Thursday.
The event came a day after the State Health Plan announced that its trustees would not vote on a more sweeping approach that would eliminate insurance coverage for workers’ spouses.
The protestors gathered before the N.C. state legislature building to criticize a proposal to eliminate health plans with zero monthly premiums, thus increasing annual premiums by $120 to $180 per worker in the first year. They said North Carolina’s public school teachers and employees are among the lowest-paid in the nation and any cost increases would further erode their income.
“This plan is horrible for low-wage workers,” said Larsene Taylor, a health technician at Cherry Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Goldsboro. “You pay more out of pocket for an inferior plan.”
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The speakers represented the N.C. Association of Educators and the Public Service Workers Union local 150. Also speaking was Democratic Rep. Verla Insko of Orange County, who praised the decision by the State Health Plan board of directors’ to delay a vote on more controversial changes.
The State Health Plan, which meets Friday, is under pressure to cut costs as health care exepenses rise around the country. The N.C. General Assembly directed the health plan to curtail spending for the 2017-19 budget, while maintaining a 20 percent reserve level.
The health plan, which is administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, covers 685,000 employees, spouses, dependents and retirees. The plan has had premium increases since 2010, except in 2013 and in 2015, ranging from 2.83 percent this year to 8.9 percent in 2010.
The plan still offers a zero-premium option this year, but that would be changed to $55 per month under the proposal to be discussed Friday. Employees would be able to reduce that amount to $15 if they do not use tobacco products or if they agree to enroll in QuitlineNC.
Under the current proposal, the zero-premium option would still be available to retirees covered by the State Health Plan.