Next week the Joint Budget Committee of the Colorado General
Assembly will review a proposal to increase healthcare compensation
for state employees from the 45 percent covered today to 77 percent
by January of 2005. Passage of this proposal is vital not only to
the welfare of state employees but also of state institutions like
CSU; the increase would free state employees from the bondage of
outrageous healthcare costs and would benefit the state by better
enabling it to attract and retain quality workers.
This request to increase healthcare benefits is fair and
justifiable. According to Kevin Nolan, an organizer of the CSU
State Employee Insurance Information Project, Colorado is ranked
49th out of 50 states in percentage of health benefits covered by
the state. Beating out only that pioneer of progressive reform we
call Wyoming, many states cover more than double the amount covered
by Colorado. Why is Colorado ranked so low? The chief reason is
that percentage of benefits coverage for state employees has not
been increased since 1996, even though healthcare costs have risen
dramatically over the past 7 years.
By supplementing only 45 percent of the total cost of healthcare
premiums, the state is forcing a number of its employees to choose
between health insurance or putting food on the table. State
workers who make around $25,000 a year and whose families are
covered under the state plan have to pay over 40 percent of their
post-tax income to maintain coverage. If this employee happens to
be a single parent, they simply cannot afford to provide food and
shelter and medical insurance to their child or children. As a
consequence they are either forced to drop their state coverage or
find a job with better benefits in the private sector.
In terms of its impact on the upper tiers of employment at CSU
in particular, the state’s sub-standard subsidizing of healthcare
may be dissuading talented professors from teaching here in favor
of other universities. According to the CSU State Employee Health
Insurance Information Project Web site, cohiip.org, Washington
State University health premiums are more than 50 percent cheaper
for comparable coverage. If you were a prospective professor, would
saving over $300 a month on your health insurance sway your
decision on where to teach?
With the cost of health insurance for state employees
approaching $700 per month for coverage, the health benefits
offered by the state as benefits of employment appear to be more of
a burden than anything else. This is the essence of why passage of
this proposal is so important; if this proposal is not passed and
nothing is done to rectify this inequity, the prime appeal of
working for the government, i.e. government benefits, will vanish
and so will the quality of applicants.
If the proposal is passed, however, the state will come “closer
to achieving actual market parity with what large Colorado
employers pay for their employees’ health benefits by January 2006″
according to a statement by Troy Eid, former Director of the
Colorado Dept. of Personnel Administration and an architect of the
proposal. By becoming a better and more competitive employer, the
state will not only be better able to hold onto its quality
employees, but will also be able to attract more. By so doing, the
state and all of us who live here will benefit healthily.
As a student at CSU you can help with the passage of this
proposal: go to cohiip.org and take a couple of minutes to e-mail
your state representatives and senators on the Joint Budget
Committee. By making your voice heard, you can help make Colorado a
better place to live, learn and work.
Hero: Hugh Hefner on general principle.
Zero: The Red Cross for reducing its presence in Iraq following
the bombing of its headquarters. Note to self: When faced with the
evil spectra of desperate terrorists, run away! Cowards.