Oct 292003
 
Authors: Joe Marshall

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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