Panels approve new health plans for NJ workers

October 7, 2011 8:22:16 AM PDT
Public employees in New Jersey will now have more choices when selecting health insurance. But they will also have to pay a higher percentage of plan costs.

Two panels have approved 15 plans with rates that still must be approved by a state commission, which is expected to act on Wednesday.

Under reforms pushed through by Gov. Chris Christie, public employees will pay between 2.25 percent and 17.5 percent of their premiums depending on salaries starting on Oct. 17. That's a change from the current policy under which all employees pay 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health coverage - regardless of the cost of the plan and their salaries.

The possible range of workers' contributions would be from $25 per month to $316.

At first, only the highest salaried state workers would face higher costs.

But over a three-year phase-in period, the state expects many employees to see their costs rise - giving them reason to choose lower-premium plans that have fewer benefits and higher copays.

The state expects that within three years, workers will pay, on average, 20 percent of their health insurance costs.

The state also has applied for a $90 million federal program to cover part of the state's costs for retiree prescription plans. The money is part of President Barack Obama's health care reform.

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