Examining the Changes to Health Insurance and Pensions

Examining the Changes to Health Insurance and Pensions

New Jersey legislation will significantly increase costs or reduce benefits for three-quarters of a million public employees and retirees.

June 24, 2011 - New York Times

WHO IS AFFECTED All state employees and most local government workers, about a half-million in all, as well as about 260,000 retirees.

HEALTH INSURANCE Employees will pay much more, with the increase phased in over four years.

Most workers had been paying 1.5 percent of their salaries for health insurance, regardless of whether they had individual or family coverage. Under the new system, they will instead pay a percentage of the insurance premium — from 3 percent to 35 percent, depending on how much they earn.

A typical worker making $65,000 to $70,000 a year, who elects full-family coverage, will pay 19 percent of the premium, or about $3,600 at current rates, up from about $1,000.

The new system will offer a broader range of plans, including some lower-cost alternatives. Under the old system, an employee paid the same amount regardless of the plan. State officials hope that basing payments on premiums will encourage more workers to choose the cheaper plans.

PENSIONS Most public workers pay 5.5 percent of their salaries into the pension system. That will rise immediately to 6.5 percent, and then in stages over seven years to 7.5 percent. For the average person, that is an increase of about $1,300 at the end of the phase-in period.

Some employee groups will pay higher rates, including judges, police officers and firefighters.

For many employees, eligibility for a pension will begin at age 65, rather than 62.

For retirees, annual cost-of-living increases will be suspended until the pension funds meet certain targets for solvency, which is expected to take years.

The state will also be required to make contributions to the pension system. The state has skipped the payments in most years since the 1990s. Unions will have the right to take the state to court over missed payments.

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