The Federation once again provided the lone voice and vote opposing another round of increases in your health insurance premiums to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux voted against the package that will increase the amount state employees pay for health insurance premiums in six of the nine plans offered to state employees. Premiums will decline on one plan and stay the same on two others.
The vote of the Public Employees Benefits Board took place Wednesday and the changes were officially posted by the state Health Care Authority today (July 21). You can see that HCA post here: https://www.hca.wa.gov/peb-board-approves-changes-2018
This is unpleasant news but it’s our obligation to share it with you because all 43,000 Federation members value honesty and transparency, even in the face of information we wish weren’t true.
One thing remains true: Without our 100% union contracts, it’d be much worse. Because of our contracts, we will still continue to pay a 15 percent share of overall premium costs. But here as in many recent years, overall premium costs have increased, so our 15 percent shares have increased as well.
Devereux, who represents all state employees on the PEBB, once again voiced state employees’ opposition and vowed the union will push the Health Care Authority to push back harder the next time around. The HCA squeezes every last dime from the health care industry to mitigate health cost increases – and we stand ready to join them the next time around to use their bully pulpit to keep costs down for dedicated public servants and their families.
The reasons for these premium increases come down to two main reasons:
- Medical inflation and usage have increased, creating that trend that will see premium rates rise “significantly,” Devereux explained.
- And the second main reason is political. The 20,000 actions by Federation members, thousands of worksite actions and more than 8,000 contacts by members to legislators succeeded in restoring some but not all of the funds for our health care that the problematic Senate Majority wanted to cut.
“We undid much of the damage the Senate Majority wanted to inflict and our members should feel proud of that,” Devereux said. “But we couldn’t get all the way there.”
Devereux said the final compromise operating budget adopted June 30 at least has enough money to cover our plans for Calendar Year 2018, even with premium increases stemming from inflation and usage.
But we have a fight on our hands for the next following year, 2019.
The Federation as a movement will continue to monitor these trends – and push the HCA to push back if needed for additional funds in the next supplemental budget that lawmaker will take up when they return to Olympia in January (they may return sooner for a fourth special session if an agreement can be reached on a Capital Budget, but that’s a separate issue).
Federation members will also have a chance during open enrollment in November to shift to a lower-cost plan.
We will have the premium chart on our website wfsedetailing the changes for all nine plans. But here, we will give you the full rundown on the two plans with the most enrollees, the Uniform Medical Plan Classic and the Kaiser Washington Classic (the former Group Health Classic).
For UMP Classic (employee premium costs go up 8.5% in 2018):
Subscriber: Goes from $94 a month in 2017 to $102/mo. in 2018.
Subscriber and spouse: Goes from $198 a month in 2017 to $214/mo. in 2018.
Subscriber and Children: Goes from $165 a month in 2017 to $179/mo. in 2018.
Full family: Goes from $269 a month in 2017 to $291/mo. in 2018.
Other UMP Plans:
UMP Plus employee premium costs will actually decline 31.8% in 2018; this is the only plan with premium rates lower in 2018 than they are in 2017.
UMP CDHP employee premium costs will not change.
For Kaiser WA Classic (employee premium costs go up 10.2% in 2018)
Subscriber: Goes from $147 a month in 2017 to $162/mo. in 2018.
Subscriber and spouse: Goes from $304 a month in 2017 to $334/mo. in 2018.
Subscriber and Children: Goes from $257 a month in 2017 to $284/mo. in 2018.
Full family: Goes from $414 a month in 2017 to $456/mo. in 2018.
Other Kaiser Plans:
Kaiser NW Classic (the existing plan available in Clark County): Employee premium costs will increase 4.6% in 2018.
Kaiser NW CDHP employee premium costs will increase 3.8% in 2018.
Kaiser WA Value (former Group Health Value) employee premium costs will go up 13% in 2018.
Kaiser WA SoundChoice employee premium costs will increase 10.9% in 2018.
Kaiser WA CDHP employee premium costs will not change.
There were other changes to policies and benefits adopted by the PEBB earlier this week:
Changes to PEBB Program rules and policies in 2018:
- The definition of “Season” means any recurring, annual period of work at a specific time of year that lasts three to eleven consecutive months.
- The surviving dependent of an employee who receives a monthly retirement benefit no later than 120 days from the date of death of the employee satisfies the requirement to immediately receive a monthly retirement benefit. This means the surviving dependent is eligible to enroll as a survivor in PEBB retiree insurance coverage.
Most plans had no benefit changes for 2018, except for Kaiser Permanente of Washington (formerly Group Health):
Kaiser Permanente of Washington (formerly Group Health) will:
- Introduce a new prescription drug deductible and prescription drug out-of-pocket maximum to all of their plans except the Consumer-Directed Health Plan (CDHP).
- Switch the CDHP network from Access PPO to Core HMO, adding: o Consulting Nurse Helpline for advice 24/7.
- Access to CareClinics at Bartell Drugs at select Seattle area locations.
- Diagnosis and treatment for routine issues with a Kaiser Permanente online visit.
- Align with Kaiser Permanente’s national coverages for the Medicare Advantage plan to offer the following additions at no cost to the member: o Diabetes Prevention Program
- Annual physical exam
- 6th prescription drug tier: $0 vaccine tier
And now comes our July 25 paychecks:
The 2018 premium changes may dampen but do not take away what we achieved in getting our contracts funded. Our contracts will bring 2% cost-of-living adjustments in paychecks starting next Tuesday, July 25 (with 4% more coming in two installments – another 2% on 7/1/18 and another 2% on 1/1/19). Total over two years just in COLA: 6%.
More than 12,000 will see additional negotiated increases ranging from 2.5% to 23.5% to address recruitment and retention and other issues. For instance, about 3,000 social service specialists 1, 2, 3 and 4 will see an additional 10% recruitment and retention raise. About 1,450 attendant counselors 1,2 and 3 will see an additional 5% recruitment and retention raise. Mental health technicians 1, 2 and 3 will will keep the 12.5% recruitment and retention raise received 9/2016. Industrial hygienists 2 and 3 will see an additional 10% recruitment and retention raise; industrial hygienist 4s, an additional 12.5%. Forensic scientists 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 will see an additional 10% recruitment and retention raise. These are some but certainly not all.
These increases include the additional pay adjustments won by members in several Department of Corrections classes that came out of the union’s successful arbitration decision of last summer. DOC members can see those listed in the WFSE/AFSCME Public Safety Press they’re receiving in the mail this week.
Under the contract, employees making less than $12 an hour will make no less than $12 an hour.
Vacation leave accrual rates will increase for the first time in at least 40 years.
Outside the contracts what you should know:
- Those in the strong PERS 2 and PSERS 2 retirement plans will see a rate increase this month – an inconvenient increased investment, yes, but one those in PERS 2 and PSERS 2 will see on the back end when they retire. The employee contribution rate in PERS 2 will go up 1.26%. In PSERS 2, 0.14%. (The state’s share of investment in those pension plans will increase more than our rates – 1.52% in PERS 2 and 0.4% in PSERS 2.)
Under law, we can’t negotiate over pensions, but Federation members have used their 100% Union voice to protect our retirement security, defeating attempts in recent years to raise our retirement age and move to 401k plans rather than defined benefit plans for new workers.
In the end, Washington’s pension systems are considered among the best-funded in the nation. And the pension benefits on the back end are solid.
- And in the interest of fully informing members who park on the Capitol Campus, members and their negotiators mitigated but could not stop the $10 a month increase for state employee parking on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The state refused to bargain over the rates and imposed the parking rate increases July 1. But we posted a detailed report on what happened and why with cost-saving parking resources on our website at: https://wfse.org/?zone=/unionactive/view_article.cfm&HomeID=658724