Bring state employee health insurance costs in line with the U.S. average
"Bring our health insurance costs and mandates in line with the U.S. average."
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"Bring our health insurance costs and mandates in line with the U.S. average."
When Rick Scott ran for governor he promised to bring state employee health insurance costs and mandates in line with the U.S. average.
In four years, Scott has made some progress. But not enough.
Scott has proposed that all state workers pay the same amount for health care coverage: $50 for individual coverage or $180 for family coverage. But there remain 22,700 employees including certain managers and the governor who get a much better deal: $8.34 for individual coverage or $30 for family coverage. That's because the Legislature has not agreed to increases for them.
For 2013, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported the average annual worker contribution for premiums for an individual in the United States was $999 while employers kicked in $4,885. Monthly that would break down to $83 -- or about 10 times more than what those high-ranking government workers contribute in Florida. (The national average for families is also much higher than those workers in the governor's office.)
Florida does come closer to paying state workers the average when compared to state employees nationally.
Nationally, on average states require employees to pay 16 percent of their health insurance costs while Florida public workers pay 13 percent, according to The State Health Care Spending Project based on 2013 data. The study Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation found that in Florida the average premium for state workers is $958, which is $5 less than the national average. (The study doesn't contain similar data for the start of Scott's tenure, so we can't say if this comparison changed during his leadership.)
If re-elected, Scott plans to propose the same idea for uniform health care payments next year. He gets credit for trying, but the Scott-O-Meter rates outcomes, not intentions. We rate this Promise Broken.
Tampa Bay Times, "Health insurance for state employees gets another look," Aug. 13, 2014
Interview, John Tupps, Gov. Rick Scott spokesman, Aug. 13, 2014
Interview, Ben Wolf, Interim Chief of Staff/Director of Communications Florida Department of Management Services, Aug. 14, 2014
Gov. Rick Scott tried again to make all state employees pay the same amount for health insurance during the 2013 legislative session, part of his campaign pledge to bring state health insurance costs "in line” with the national average.
But he ended the session in the same boat as the previous two. He proposed all state workers pay $50 for individual coverage or $180 for family coverage, saving the state about $43.4 million.
The Legislature said nah.
Rank-and-file employees pay $50 a month for individual coverage or $180 a month for family coverage. The state kicks in about $500 and $1,000, respectively.
The state's pool of 24,500 high-ranking employees, legislators and their aides get a much better deal. They pay $8.34 for individual coverage or $30 for family. The state's share is $540 and $1,200.
A May 2013 Tampa Bay Times story highlighted the awkward juxtaposition of House members accepting cheap, taxpayer-subsidized insurance for themselves while denying an expansion of Medicaid coverage to 1 million low-income Floridians. The House pushed a state-funded alternative that would have charged low-income parents and disabled adults a $25 premium for basic coverage.
A year earlier in the upper chamber, members of the Florida Senate volunteered to pay the $30 or $180 premiums for health insurance that most state workers pay.
"There's no reason that some people that work in state government should pay less than others,” Scott said this year.
The dichotomy may not last. In a statement to the Times, Weatherford said, "We are aware of the differences in what House members pay compared to other state employees for health insurance and are looking forward to addressing it next session."
How does this compare to the national average for employer-sponsored insurance plans? It's lower.
In 2012, the average annual employee contribution for individual insurance was $951, with the employer kicking in $4,664, according to a national employer survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The worker's premium is about $80 a month, or 10 times what high-ranking workers and House members pay.
The 2012 average annual employee contribution for family coverage was $4,316, with the employer's share being $11,429, according to Kaiser. Per month, that's about $360 for a worker, or 12 times what House members and some other workers pay.
We wondered if Florida is near the national average when compared to other public employers.
On average, public employers charged employees $698 a year ($58/month) for individual coverage and $3,368 ($280/month) for health insurance, according to a Kaiser analysis of employer-sponsored health insurance.
So for most rank-and-file state employees, their share of health insurance premiums isn't too far below the national average of public employers. But the class of employees who pay far less for insurance trail the national average by a lot.
Scott isn't having much luck getting the Legislature to equalize health insurance costs for all workers. But it's not all the Legislature's fault. We found no evidence Scott lobbied or pressured lawmakers to make the change, and it wasn't among his two legislative priorities for 2013.
As such, we rate this promise Stalled.
Emailed response from Gov. Rick Scott's press office to multiple promise updates, May 10, 2013
Interview with Craig Palosky, Kaiser Family Foundation spokesman, May 17, 2013
Interview with Ben Wolf, Department of Management Services spokesman, May 17, 2013
Kaiser Family Foundation, 2012 average annual health insurance premium costs for individuals and families, accessed May 17, 2013
Audio of Tampa Bay Times interview with Gov. Rick Scott, May 14, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott's "Florida Families First Budget” for 2013-14
Tampa Bay Times, "House members says yes to cheap health insurance -- for themselves,” May 14, 2013
Rick Scott's plan to run state government like a business meant layoffs and mandatory pension contributions for state employees in 2011.
In his 2012-13 budget recommendations, revealed Dec. 8, 2011, Scott identified another private sector trend he wants state employees to follow: paying more for their health insurance coverage.
"It's the only way to control it," he said of rising health care costs in a Dec. 21, 2011, interview with a Tallahassee radio station. "Typical of the state, they haven't had to do that very much, almost none."
Scott's 2012-13 budget includes a proposed savings of $46 million by increasing premiums for a sliver of state employees who pay less for premiums than rank-and-file employees. His recommendation would affect about 24,500 higher-ranking state officials, legislators and their aides, and bring their premiums in line with typically lower-paid employees. Individual premiums would increase from $8.34 to $50 a month, and family coverage -- which Scott pays for -- would go up from $30 a month to $180, according to the Department of Management Services.
For family coverage, that's an increase of $1,800 a year. It's not much to Scott, a multimillionaire, but for legislative aides and some lawmakers it's a big jump. And it takes two to tango. Scott needs the Legislature to approve his plan during its 2012 session, which starts Jan. 10. Lawmakers didn't take him up on the idea in 2011, but they did approve a plan to make all employees contribute 3 percent of their salaries to general revenue as a pension contribution (which is tied up in the courts, as of Jan. 3, 2011).
Scott promised to bring Florida's health insurance costs in line with the national average. In 2011, the national average of premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance was $5,429 for single coverage and $15,073 for family coverage, according to the annual survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. Employees contributed $921, or about $76 a month, for individual coverage and $4,129, or $344 a month, for family coverage.
Scott's 2012-13 budget inches closer to his goal of bringing health insurance costs in line with the national average. We rated this promise In the Works in February 2011, when Scott delivered his first budget recommendations. Scott is again pursuing reduced health insurance costs, though it remains to be seen if the Legislature will give it to him (and increase premiums for themselves and their staffers). So this promise stays In the Works.
Scott's 7-7-7 book to Turn Florida Around
Department of Management Services, "Strategic Health Plan Options for the State of Florida," Sept. 29, 2011
Scott interview with WFLA 100.7 FM Tallahassee, Dec. 21, 2011
"As Florida government costs are cut, some grumble," Fort Meyers News-Press, Dec. 18, 2011
"State workers' health care may be next target for cost savings," Ocala Star Banner, Nov. 13, 2011
"Scott budget has more money for schools, less money for Medicaid," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Dec. 7, 2011
"Scott's budget boosts schools, hits hospitals," St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 8, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott's Communications Office, written responses to PolitiFact's questions about the Scott-O-Meter, Dec. 28, 2011
Email interview with Mary Leslie, Department of Management Services spokeswoman, Dec. 21, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott came into office promising big changes for the state workforce.
He said he would cut 5 percent of the jobs currently on the state payroll. He said he would make employees, for the first time, contribute toward their own retirement. And he promised to alter health care plans for state employees to be more "in line" with the U.S. average.
As part of the budget, which Scott released on Feb. 7, 2011, he proposed to change the health insurance plans for state workers. The proposals must still be approved by the state Legislature, but Scott's plans include two major changes to how employees receive health insurance.
1). Making worker contributions equal for state employees. Currently, state Select Exempt Service (SES) and Senior Management Service (SMS) employees -- which includes legislative staff and lawmakers -- contribute far less to their health insurance than Career Service (CS) employees. SES and SMS workers, who account for about 20,000 people in the nearly 109,000 people in the State Personnel System, contribute $8.34 monthly for individual coverage; or $30 a month for family coverage. CS workers contribute $50 a month for an individual PPO or HMO plan, or $180 a month for family coverage. Scott proposed to increase the required premium contribution for state executive employees.
2). Capping the amount of health insurance coverage for a state employee at $5,000 per plan participant annually. That's the top end of what the state would cover, regardless of if you're an individual or if you have a family insurance plan. Currently, the cap varies depending on the participant and plan, but is between $6,000 and $15,000 per employee, state officials say.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2010 are $5,049 for single coverage and $13,770 for family coverage. The average annual worker contributions are $899 for single coverage and $3,997 for family coverage, Kaiser reported as part of its annual survey. (That's about $75 a month for individuals and $330 a month for family coverage, more than state workers pay now.) Kaiser also reported that only 12 percent of covered workers are in plans with an annual limit on benefits for single coverage.
The changes would take affect starting July 1, 2011, if the Legislature goes along.
Ultimately, the Scott-O-Meter will have to decide whether the health care changes the governor pushes through the Legislature put government employees "in line" with the national average. But now that the conversation is started, we can move this promise to In the Works.
Rick Scott 2011-2012 proposed budget, released Feb. 7, 2011
Florida Office of Financial Regulation, state employee benefits, accessed Feb. 8, 2011
Department of Management Services, state workforce report, Dec. 8, 2010
Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010 health benefits survey, Feb. 7, 2011
News Service of Florida, Scott unveils budget filled with deep cuts and major change, Feb. 7, 2011
Department of Management Services, employee health care guide, accessed Feb. 8, 2011