Iowa’s health coverage plans shift cost to state workers | The Gazette

New law bans most public employees from negotiating over health costs

DES MOINES — Thousands of state employees, many who no longer are allowed to bargain collectively for benefits, could face significantly higher health care costs starting Jan. 1 under a plan that will provide sizable savings to state coffers.

Officials with the Iowa Department of Administrative Services say they are unable to calculate the total cost of the 2018 state employees’ group insurance program through Wellmark until after the enrollment period ends Nov. 17. But a preliminary analysis of executive branch employees indicates the state would save $20.5 million, while costs for 18,789 workers would go up at least $11.7 million. The annual cost of the contract is estimated at $312.8 million, nearly $9 million less than now.

However, the numbers supplied by the state’s Department of Management for the calculation do not include regent system employees. retirees, state public safety officers still covered under collective bargaining and two smaller classifications that likely would push the overall employee cost share higher. There are about 5,800 regents merit-covered employees and about 4,600 retirees in the 2017 plan year. Retirees bear the full cost of premiums.

“It’s going to be a significant cost shift,” said Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, the state’s largest public-sector union.

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