Published October 27, 2008
State worker enrollment opens; still incredible bargain
The time has come again for state workers to enroll in their health care coverage, and prices are up this year. But political hay has been made this year over the fact that they aren't up nearly up to what private sector workers pay.First up, the bad news for state guv types: the average employee will pay $12 a month more for health insurance in 2009 than in 2008. The good news: that still adds up to $91.For privately run state health insurance options, the prices run on the high end from $107 a month for a single person on Group Health Classic to $304 a month for full family coverage in the same plan.But the great thing about working for the state is the Uniform Medical Plan, eighth wonder of the health insurance world. This preferred provider plan is run by the state, and its prices are $82 a month for full family, down to $26 a month for an individual. Those prices are actually lower than this year. To put them in perspective, The Olympian is also having its enrollment period soon. And the prices are almost comparable to private insurance through the state, say up to $300 for the full deal. Except that would be $300 per paycheck for employees of McClatchy, and $300 per month for state workers. UMP, obviously, is an even better deal, costing the worker less than a third as much as a private sector PPO. It accounts for half of all people covered by the state-offered plans.Overall, state employees pay 12 percent of the costs of their insurance, and private sector employees pay around 24 to 28 percent.Itís that gap between private sector and government insurance premiums that has been targeted this year. Notably, the lead Senate budget writer, Joe Zarelli, named premiums as a top way to save money in the upcoming budget.And the Seattle Times pointed to the gap in its opinion-page endorsement of Dino Rossi for governor, saying he would narrow it. That, of course, would be easier said that done. One argument often given for the better-than-average health care for state workers is that it compensates for less-than-average pay. Another, more formidable, argument is that state worker unions negotiated the 12 percent rate into their contracts.