The New Jersey School Boards Association is expressing its concern about potential increases in 2023 premiums for the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program.
While the final premium rates for the plan year beginning Jan. 1, 2023, have not been made public, there are reports that those increases will be in the double-digit range, as will the premiums for the State Health Benefits Program. A July 21 news release from the Senate Republican Office stated that premiums for school employees and teachers covered by the SEHBP were set to rise 15.6%, while premiums for active employees in the State Health Benefits Program would rise by 24%.
According to NJ.com, New Jersey Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino acknowledged rate increases were being considered and added that rates for the upcoming year across the various plans would likely increase between 12-20%.
Increases on the SEHBP would largely be paid by boards of education; many employees enrolled in it pay a percentage of their salary, not a percentage of the insurance premium, under the changes implemented under Chapter 44. NJSBA has voiced concerns about the potential financial impact of Chapter 44 and has urged reexamination of that measure, as well as relief from the negative consequences of the 2020 law, which has raised costs for many districts.
“This move would have a very negative impact on district budgets,” said Irene LeFebvre, president of NJSBA. “It diverts tax dollars from classrooms to the detriment of student services, academic programs and appropriate staffing – and it ultimately undermines student achievement.”
Senate President Nick Scutari, Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz and the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Paul Sarlo, issued a statement on July 21 urging the plan design committee for both the State Health Benefits Program and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program to delay acting to approve the rate increases. The state senators also called on the state treasurer to “use her authority to block the planned approval and make sure a full accounting of the finances of the two health benefits plans is made public and fully discussed. There should be no rate increases without justification, and they should be prepared to take whatever steps are needed to mitigate the financial impact of any rate changes.”
“District budgets have been finalized for the next year, and substantial rate increases would force boards to reduce or remove programs and services that potentially benefit children,” said Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director of NJSBA. “We urge the School Employees Health Benefits Commission to further review the rate proposals and search for strategies to limit increases for the 2023 plan year, rather than forcing district boards of education to make cuts in a budget that went through a transparent budget approval process.”