Idaho’s Senate and House Democratic caucuses have sent a joint letter to Gov. Butch Otter, on behalf of all 25 Democrats serving in the House and Senate, formally requesting the governor to delay a plan to impose much higher premiums on part-time state employees for their health insurance on Nov. 1. “We are particularly disappointed with the timing of this action by your office and the lack of formal legislative or public hearing in your decision making,” the lawmakers wrote. “The announcement of this major shift in policy came exactly one week after the 2009 legislative session adjourned. It came without any formal or public discussion in the Legislature. Moreover, the fact that the cost shift is slated to be implemented on November 1 means it will go into effect before the Legislature returns for the upcoming session.”
The hike, which is being pushed by Otter’s director of administration, Mike Gwartney, means some part-timers will face premiums that exceed their entire state pay; those who can’t pay will lose their health coverage. The legislators, in their letter, warned that any savings the state sees from the move likely would be be eaten up by increased costs in Medicaid or the Catastrophic Health Care fund as uncovered workers turn to public assistance. “Rather than shifting insurance costs onto workers who can ill afford them, efforts should be made to use the State’s bargaining position to lower State government’s health care costs as a whole,” they wrote to the governor. “You are in a critical position to lead such an effort and we encourage you to do so.” You can read the full letter here.
Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, said lawmakers have been hearing “just these awful stories” from the affected part-time state workers. “This is 25 legislators saying, ‘This isn’t the best policy, in terms of the execution and what’s being done here,” she said. “It’s just frightening for these families.”