State Workers May Now Pay 20-Percent of Health Premium
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that he and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will begin paying 20 percent of their health care insurance premiums beginning Aug. 1 and he urged all state employees to follow suit.
"Hard-working Iowa taxpayers are accustomed to paying for some or all of their own health care costs, and for far too long, their tax dollars have also paid for the total cost of state employees' health care," Branstad said. "I truly believe the only way we will begin improving our health as a state and controlling the rising costs of health care is by empowering Iowans to take ownership of their own health."
The voluntary payments total $225 a month for Branstad and $153 a month for Reynolds, Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said.
Branstad on Monday signed an executive order allowing state employees to voluntarily pay 20 percent of their own health care. The governor also asked all statewide elected officials and department heads to do the same.
Albrecht said 88 percent of state employees pay nothing toward health insurance premiums. Lawmakers also pay no health care premiums.
Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn, R-Boone, said Monday he would pay a portion of his health care costs beginning Aug. 1, saying it's the "right thing to do."
Sen. Gene Fraise criticized Branstad, saying he's "so out-of-touch" that he would ask state workers to cut their own pay.
"I suppose it made some sense to the governor when he made this outrageous request, especially considering his own $130,000 salary, $50,000 state pension, free housing and transportation, and a state-funded personal chef," the Fort Madison Democrat said. "Unlike the governor, these state workers have experienced furloughs, layoffs, pay freezes, and doing more work for no additional pay."
According to the governor's office, the cost for a single person on the least expensive health care plan would be $1,000 a year.
Albrecht said if all eligible state workers paid 20 percent of their own premiums, the state could save more than $100 million annually.
About 27,000 state employees are eligible to sign up through July 19.
Last week, Branstad told The Des Moines Register he would demand that state employees be required to pick up 20 percent of their health costs as part of union negotiations this year.
The proposal is almost certain to generate heat from public employees.
Iowa was one of only six states that don't require employee health care cost sharing, according to a 2009 review conducted by the newspaper.
Unions have said the no-premium coverage enjoyed by most state workers is a trade-off for the lesser pay they receive in government jobs versus the private sector.
Danny Homan, head of Iowa's largest state worker union, criticized Branstad, saying his demands run counter to productive union negotiations.
House and Senate Republicans in February proposed that state employees pay $2,400 a year in premiums, but did not include lawmakers in that bill. The proposal didn't pass. Advocates of the premium acknowledged that previous union agreements would prohibit such a mandate without the union agreeing to renegotiate.
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