John Lyon of Stephens Media rounds up the critical views of school groups of the legislature’s recent “fix” to avoid another round of giant increases in health insurance premiums for school employees.
As we’ve said many times before, it was no fix. Part-time employees were excluded. Participants face killing new deductible levels. The legislature is going to require health savings accounts of certain plans, but ignores the fact that few people have any spare money to put into these savings accounts. It’s the same bait-and-switch Republicans have been trying for years on Medicare and Social Security.
Sen. Jim Hendren, who favored throwing people off insurance with the promises they could qualify for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, is featured again as an opponent of Obamacare. I don’t think a suitable adjective has been invented for his dancing around this hypocrisy.
Hendren said decisions had to be made based on the laws that exist today. He said he is focused now on the insurance issue and not on the private option, but he said that when the Legislature revisits the private option in the future, “that’s something that all of have to keep in mind: People who do enroll in that, what are the alternatives going to be?”
The alternatives will be most likely the same ones Hendren offered as he and the bitter enders tried for the second time this year to kill the private option insurance plan: None.
It gets worse. Get a load of this load from Hendren:
Hendren said the Legislature put a bandage on the problem in a special session in October when it “threw money” at it, but he said the new changes, while not a cure-all, are expected to result in $40 million to $50 million a year in ongoing savings and allow school employees to see an aggregate premium increase of 3 percent rather than 35 percent.
“If that’s a Band-Aid, that’s a pretty expensive Band-Aid,” he said.
This is simply dishonest. Most of the savings come from removing people from coverage. Some money also was stolen from school district funds obligated to other purposes. The state’s contribution: $0. Real expensive.
Lyon didn’t get into another big cost savings that will create pain for thousands of state employees. That’s the end of spousal coverage when spouses have insurance at their places of work. In virtually every case, you must assume it’s poorer insurance and/or higher cost. Otherwise, the spouses wouldn’t be using state coverage.
Again, it’s an expensive Band-Aid. Just not to the state of Arkansas. It’s a gaping wound on state employees.