Senate Republicans introduce legislation to help reform government
Thursday, April 19, 2007Plan will address the rising cost of health care for public employees LANSING-Senate Majority Leader Michael D. Bishop along with Senators Patty Birkholz, Cameron S. Brown, Mark Jansen and Wayne Kuipers today introduced a comprehensive plan that will help public employers address the rising cost of health care. The Public Employees Health Benefit Act will create a new mechanism allowing units of government to pool medical, dental and optical benefits, develop a catastrophic fund to allow statewide pooling of catastrophic coverage for public employers, and provide for increased access to claims and health care provider data. Participation in the benefit pool and catastrophic fund is optional. "Our plan will let locals save," said Bishop, R-Rochester. "Because of our economic recession, public entities in Michigan are struggling to keep costs under control while maintaining essential services, such as education and public safety. Today, the Senate unveiled legislation that will lower the costs of providing health care for the employees of Michigan's local governments and school districts." Public employers will be required to competitively solicit four bids for fully insured coverage and provide a case management program to employees to help them select the most useful and practical benefits package. The legislation will not require public employers to change where and how they purchase health benefits, lower employee benefit levels or affect collective bargaining. "Employers could save approximately eight percent without reducing health care benefits or coverage for employees with this plan," said Jansen, R-Gaines Township. "This legislation directly benefits our local governments, local police, local firefighters and public school districts across the state. It will allow them to put more funding toward public safety, such as police and fire protection, and more tax dollars back into our classrooms." The legislative package, Senate Bills 418-421, has received support from many public employer and employee organizations, including the UAW and American Federation of Teachers Michigan. "When health benefits are cut, everyone is hurt, including our children," said David Hecker, the president of AFT Michigan. "We must strive to improve health care coverage for all, instead of weakening it for those with good coverage. This legislation will help control health care costs in a manner that will not only maintain but improve benefits." Health insurance rates have seen double-digit increases each year from 2000 to 2006. Benefits in 2004 cost Michigan's school districts 42 percent more than the national average according to a report by Standard & Poor's. "The Senate is committed to addressing the rising cost of health care by providing new options for purchasing benefits and allowing greater access to important claims information," said Kuipers, R-Holland. "This will achieve significant cost savings without sacrificing the level of benefits employees receive."
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