By spending excess reserves and eliminating the wellness program, Nevada lawmakers were told on Thursday the state will be able to provide workers with the same health benefits they now receive at a slightly lower cost.
A subcommittee of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees voted to adopt the plan, including elimination of the controversial wellness program. That decision drew protests in mid-April after workers were told that meant the $50 a month subsidy they were promised was being eliminated.
Budget Director Jim Wells said the savings would be spread across all employees under the plan.
Assemblywoman Heidi Swank pointed out the wellness program “was a program that the 2013 Legislature had not approved originally.”
“If it’s a small reduction for folks, it means everyone gets it, not just a small group,” she said.
In the end, the plan would result in active employees paying $1.87 a month less for coverage and the state paying $24.81 a month less. Those in the HMO plan would see a $5.52 monthly reduction in premiums.
The state gets the majority of the benefit because the state covers 93 percent of the total premium for most active workers.
Non-Medicare retirees would see their premium costs decrease about $9.60 a month.
To do that and maintain the same benefits, the plan would spend a total of $50.1 million in excess reserves over the biennium and put $16.3 million into the pot that would have gone into the wellness program.
Wells said the program really has to spend down the excess reserves because they are part of an internal services fund that would otherwise face federal payback requirements.
The plan will take the excess reserves down to just more than $3 million by the end of the 2016-2017 biennium.
Deductibles, co-insurance, out of pocket maximums, health Savings Account contributions, preventative care, vision and dental benefits all remain the same if the plan is approved by the two full money committees when they review the benefits plan budget in mid-May.
PEBP provides health benefits to some 25,000 active employees plus their spouses and children as well as more than 3,900 non-Medicare retirees. Altogether the plan insures some 42,000 people.
For active employee members, the budget would pay $701.73 a month in 2016 and $699.25 in 2017, generating total revenues of $950.5 million over the biennium.