The freshman assemblywomen echoed concerns from Senate Republicans about actual cost savings from the mandatory New Jersey Educators Health Plan implemented in 2021 amidst record-high inflation and the largest budget in state history.
While the final premium rates for the state health benefits plan for the year beginning January 1, 2023, have not been made public, there are reports that those increases will be as much as 15.6%.
“Despite a surplus and frequent calls to return aid after the disastrous S-2 state cuts, our schools are still $600 million short of being fully funded. The additional cost of health insurance put on school districts would force many to reduce or remove programs and services for students,” said Eulner
Chapter 44, signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2020, promised to reduce costs by cutting out-of-network reimbursements and offering teachers lower premiums. The adopted law significantly changed employee healthcare benefits and did not include an opt-out clause for individual school districts.
Instead of requiring employees to contribute a percentage of the premium, Chapter 44 employees must contribute an amount equaling a specified percentage of their annual base salary. Staff hired after July 1, 2020, must automatically be enrolled in the New Jersey Educators Health Plan unless they refuse coverage.
“[Chapter 44] is yet another example of the Democrat’s plan to legislate first and worry about the consequences later,” said Piperno. “We join our Senate colleagues and call for a special legislative committee to investigate the Skyrocketing health care premium increases.”
The New Jersey School Boards Association cautioned lawmakers that taxpayers are likely to bear the cost and described the plan as nothing more than an unfunded mandate. Additionally, the NJ Association of School Business Officials conducted a survey where out of 158 districts surveyed, 85% indicated that Chapter 44 would cost them more money.