Legislation to require General Assembly members to pay a portion of the cost of their health-care premiums is before the Senate Committee on Finance again this session.
Sponsored by Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), the bill, 2012-S 2358, would require 15-percent premium sharing by legislators.
“There are two things that are true about health insurance,” Walaska said in a statement. “One is that costs are rising and the other is that more and more employees are contributing to the cost of their coverage.”
“For years, Rhode Island state employees have been contributing to their health care, which is fair. But what I do not think is fair is that legislators, who are basically part-time state employees, get to choose to pay or not to pay,” he said.
Under current practice, legislators are able to accept health insurance coverage or refuse it, in which case they are eligible for a waiver payment, which they can accept or decline. Those who accept health insurance can receive it free or can make a contribution of their choosing to the premium amount.
The Walaska bill would require all who accept the coverage to pay a minimum of 15 percent and would prohibit any payment or state subsidy for waiving the health insurance benefits.
Currently, 71 legislators accept the state health insurance. Of that number, 68 legislators pay a portion, of their choosing, toward the premiums, ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent. There are currently 42 legislators who waive the state health insurance.
“We all must do our part to contribute to the fiscal health of the state, and that includes legislators,” said Walaska. “In the grand scheme of things and the enormity of the state budget, the amount that is being proposed for legislator premium payments is small. But I introduced the bill not just as a cost-saving measure, but as a matter of fairness to all other workers in our state – union and non-union state employees, municipal employees, private industry workers – for whom paying toward health insurance is a part of today’s work climate.”