State Health Plan Takes a Beating
The Connecticut Comptroller’s office released its annual report this week on the state’s Partnership Plan revealing that it paid more in claims than it took in.
The Partnership Plan allows non-state public employees — almost 60,000 — to participate in the state employee health plan. According to the report, the plan paid out $659 million in claims but only collected $622 million in premiums in 2022. Put another way, for every dollar it collected, $1.06 was spent on medical and pharmacy claims.
This is not the first time the plan has faced controversy. Yankee Institute hoisted warning flags last year in a study that showed the comptroller’s office, who manages the plan, was balancing its books by constantly adding new members, while, at the same time, delaying payments to cover up the red ink and avoid insolvency.
The plan was forced to increase its rates last year, resulting in at least eight groups —including Westport and Trumbull Boards of Education and the Town of Ridgefield — opting out of the program.
The land of steady habits decided to double down on this failure by introducing, this week, a bill that would enable small business employees in the state to enroll in a health plan procured by the Comptroller for state employees.
The bill is a watered-down version of last year’s failed public option proposal put forward by former state Comptroller Kevin Lembo. The goal was to allow small businesses, unions and possibly individuals to join the Partnership Plan.
Protecting Public Employee Freedom and Speech
In 2022, the General Assembly passed a bill prohibiting an employer from forcing employees to attend or participate in a meeting that concerns the employer’s views on political and religious matters. It also protects workers who seek to form a union.
According to testimony by Executive Director of AFSCME Council 4 Jody Barr, “Forming a union, or ability to form a union within a workplace is a First Amendment right.” He also shared a personal story of how he was required to attend a mandatory orientation training where Human Resources discouraged him from joining a union. The experience left him “completely shaken.”
Coincidentally, according to the collective bargaining agreements (CBA) between AFSCME Council 4 and the State of Connecticut, all new hires are required to attend a mandatory captive audience meeting with the union where they are pressured to become a dues paying member. Unfortunately, these types of coercive meetings were not included in last year’s bill.
This week a bill was introduced to partially rectify this problem. It says that state and municipal CBAs and related notices must include a clear and conspicuous statement of an employee’s right to choose not to be a member of a union. Although new hires will still be required to sit through a union orientation, they will at least be properly informed of their right to choose.
State Police Union Want’s Their SEBAC Deal
A public hearing on the approval of the Connecticut State Police union contract before the Appropriations Committee is scheduled for next Wednesday (Jan. 18). It is expected that the full House and Senate will vote on it Jan. 25.
Even though the state police is not part of the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), they are looking for a similar sweetheart deal.
The tentative agreement reached with Gov. Ned Lamont last month includes yearly 2.5% wage increases, step increases and a lump sum bonus of $3,500. The fourth year of the contract will have a wage re-opener that is yet to be determined.
Additionally, the deal allows workers who are assigned an overtime shift that is canceled within 24 hours to be paid a minimum of four hours of work even though no work is performed. They will also receive an annual stipend of $500 for health and wellness.
If the contract is approved employees will receive pay retroactive to July 1, 2022, when their contract expired.
State Workers May Lose Their Access to TikTok
Connecticut may be joining almost two dozen states in banning the popular social media app TikTok from being installed on state-owned or state issued devices. The purpose of the bill is to protect sensitive data from malicious foreign and domestic actors. An annual audit of computer programs and applications will be performed to ensure state employees comply.
‘Haters’ May Lose Their Tax-Exempt Status
A proposal was introduced this week that will take away the tax-exempt status from any organization that instigates “hatred” against an individual or group based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity. There is no constitutional right to a tax exemption, but organizations do have a right to free speech unless it involves imminent threats. The bill has yet to be brought up in committee and as of today a public hearing has not been scheduled.