The Politics Blog

State employee health deal could lead to higher out of pocket RX costs for workers

Staff writerOctober 2, 2013 

David Schumacher


State officials released a few more details Wednesday about a tentative health-care contract that negotiators for Gov. Jay Inslee and a coalition of two-dozen public-employee unions agreed to the previous day. Potentially higher out of pocket costs for prescription drugs is one piece not mentioned in our earlier report.

In a morning letter to state agency directors, state budget director David Schumacher said:

"Over the next several months, the Health Care Authority will work with the coalition of unions to develop and implement an innovative and effective wellness program. By helping employees live healthier lives, we will strengthen our workforce and drive down health care costs for employees, the state and taxpayers."

Schumacher's letter described "key elements" of the agreement this way:

  • Creation of a wellness plan to improve employee health and reduce health care costs. The state will work with the coalition of unions to develop and implement the plan. As part of this, the state may reduce point-of-service costs to provide incentives for employee participation.
  • Continuation of an 85 percent employer/15 percent employee health care premium contribution.
  • Maintenance of the provisions of the Classic Uniform Medical Plan for deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and co-insurance. These maintenance provisions will expire June 30, 2015.
  • Continuation of the state payment of premium costs for basic life, basic long-term disability and dental insurances.
  • Flexibility to implement the pharmaceutical provisions of the Affordable Care Act by permitting increases to out-of-pocket maximums to eliminate or reduce the financial implications to the state.

The last item deals with the possibility of higher pharmaceutical costs for workers. As we reported, Greg Devereux, executive leader of the Washington Federation of State Employees, expects the two-dozen unions participating in the health-care bargaining coalition will vote to ratify the agreement over the next three to four weeks.


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