TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Phil Murphy and the public sector unions were crowing a bit on Monday after announcing modest reforms to the public employee health care system, changes expected to generate somewhere around $500 million in savings over two years.
“These changes are a great example of the win-win outcomes we can achieve when labor is viewed as a partner in progress and not an opponent. Providing affordable, high-quality healthcare for working people is one of the greatest challenges facing our state, and one of the most important things we must achieve,” opined NJEA President Marie Blistan.
But Republicans weren’t overly impressed by the drop-in-the-bucket measure, especially as New Jersey’s annual budget is pushing $40 billion.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. said it’s time for the Democrat Governor to get on board with the “platinum-to-gold” proposal.
“Taxpayers deserve to know that every opportunity to achieve savings on the massive cost of public employee health benefits is being investigated,” said Kean. “They deserve to know where the Governor stands on platinum-to-gold, which would produce the greatest savings for taxpayers of any proposed health benefit reform.”
Number-crunches believe moving public employees from platinum-level health care plans to gold-level healthcare plans (utilizing the definitions of the notorious Affordable Care Act) could save New Jersey’s state and local governments over $1 billion annually, savings vastly out-stripping today’s half-measures.
The problem is politics. Deeper reforms aren’t supported by Murphy-allied unions like the NJEA, and Murphy’s intra-party rival, Senate President Steve Sweeney, favors the platinum-to-gold shift which his unpopular ‘Economic & Fiscal Policy Workgroup’ recently recommended.