March 18, 2010

State worker health care - M*A*S*H tent job action a success, but will legislators get message of new study?

The WFSE/AFSCME-M*A*S*H-style tent set up on the Capitol lawn Wednesday was a big success as dozens of members donned doctors smocks and checked blood pressure to demonstrate that unless the Legislature acts with at least $65 million, state employee families will be on life support because of unaffordable health insurance.

Without that funding—to correct the Legislature’s diversion of funds in 2008—co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs could triple. This comes on top of the average $1,100 more in health costs you took on Jan. 1.

But will legislators get the message?

If they don’t believe you, we hope they read a new report submitted to the Public Employees Benefits Board that suggests a direct co-relation between layoffs and job insecurity and an increase in state employee health problems.

The March 5 Milliman study showed an increase in health insurance claims starting in the second quarter of 2009—the same time the huge layoffs and takeaways were rolled out. The report suggests, that later discussion of the Jan. 1, 2010 increases also caused insecurity that contributed to greater usage.

The moral of the story is: hiking health costs isn’t going to keep usage down. Maintaining a stable workforce will. That will relieve the stress and resulting health problems that come with job insecurity. And that, in turn, will drive health care system costs down.

And in the larger picture, we can only imagine the stress and anxiety and health problems faced by the people you care for—the abused, the vulnerable, the disabled, the elderly—who face a loss of the Basic Health Plan and other safety net programs.

That’s why if these are the final days of this terrible legislative session that we need to keep up the fight.

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