NHP troopers file to get out of state benefits plan

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The association representing more than 300 highway patrol troopers has asked District Judge Mike Griffin to order the state to let them out of the Public Employee Benefits Program.

Association spokesman Gary Wolf said the troopers have been trying for more than three years to get out of a system they believe is overpriced and not responsive to their needs.

He said they have a better plan lined up with the Teamsters Union but that the Public Employee Benefits Program has refused to enact regulations that will allow them to join that plan.

"This complaint reveals a long history of avoidance by the state to perform their legal duty -- a delay that has violated state employees' rights to secure better health benefits," said Teamsters Local 14 Secretary-Treasurer Gary Mauger. "Consequently, we are asking the courts to compel the state, through a specific schedule, to do what the Legislature directed the state to do three years ago."

The law passed in 1999 allowed groups of at least 300 employees to leave the state health benefits plan and sign up with an outside company or program.

But the proposed regulations ran into trouble over whether those groups leaving should be required to take the retirees who would be part of that group with them.

State benefits managers say its easy for a group like troopers to get a better price for benefits if they leave the retirees -- who use many more services -- behind. They said that would cause financial problems for the state plan by saddling the state with older workers and retirees who are using the bulk of the expensive benefits.

Wolf said at the time the teamsters were willing to provide benefits to those troopers who retire under their plan. But they were not willing to take a large group of existing retirees with them.

"It appears that politics instead of law have been driving this issue for a very long time," said Mauger.

He said the complaint was filed to force action by the state. The complaint asks the judge to order the benefits program to follow the 1999 law and enact regulations that will allow the Nevada Highway Patrol Association to leave the state benefits plan and join the teamsters union program.

The 20-page complaint charges the benefits program and board have "purposefully and intentionally failed to fulfill their statutory duty" by not enacting regulations. It charges that the benefits program's proposed regulations would have violated the law because they were "too restrictive and effectively prevented anybody from choosing an outside insurance plan."

A redrafted version of the regulations, they charge, would have financially penalized anyone who joined a group leaving the state plan by reducing the state's contribution to their premiums.

Since June 2001, the complaint charges, the benefits program and its executive board have proposed no new regulations.

It asks Judge Griffin to declare that the Nevada Legislature intended an employee group to be able to leave the state plan "unless the opt-out plan is not financially sound." It also asks the court order the benefits program to adopt reasonable regulations and approve a schedule to get the job done.


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