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Patrick seeks to raise workers? health care rates

Associated Press | 7/27/2009, 5:15 a.m.

Gov. Deval Patrick wants to shift more of the cost of health care onto the backs of state workers as a way to save money and help close a $1.3 billion budget gap.

Under Patrick’s plan, about 37,000 people employed by the state would see their monthly insurance premiums climb by 10 percent, an administrative source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the budget had not been unveiled, confirming a report in the Jan. 13 Boston Sunday Globe.

The governor also plans to require the purchase of more generic drugs in the state’s Medicaid program and cut Medicaid reimbursements to some hospitals and doctors.

Most state employees pay 15 percent of their premiums with the state covering the rest. Patrick’s plan sets up a three-tiered, sliding scale system based on annual salaries with those earning more being required to pay a higher percentage.

Employees making less than $35,000 would continue to contribute 15 percent. Those earning $35,000 to $50,000 would pay 20 percent, while those making more than $50,000 would pay 25 percent.

Monthly health premiums for 58,000 of 80,000 state employees and their families would increase under the plan, with 37,000 employees facing a 10 percent increase — a jump of $51 a month for an individual plan and $120 for a family plan.

About 21,000 workers would see their premiums rise by 5 percent, while 16,000 would see no change. Approximately 6,000 employees would have a 5 percent drop.

The changes could save the state $51 million and wouldn’t affect retirees.

The proposal was met with resistance from union officials representing state workers.

“We will continue to be very aggressive when it comes to ensuring that our members have affordable, quality health care coverage,” Jim Durkin of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told the Globe.

The governor’s other proposals would save the state $155 million by requiring the purchasing of less-expensive generic prescription drugs and eliminating special legislative funding for specific health care providers.

The plan is part of the governor’s proposed state budget, set to be unveiled Jan. 23. It’s the first salvo in the state’s annual budget battle, which typically pits the governor against leaders in the House and Senate.

“This happens every single year,” said John McDonough, executive director of the advocacy group Health Care For All. “They come up with these things. Some of them are real, some of them are fiction.”

(Associated Press)