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State employee unions reach tentative deal on health benefits

The following is from the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28:

OLYMPIA (Oct. 2, 2013) — The Health Care Coalition of state employee unions led by the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 reached tentative agreement Tuesday on a health care agreement that holds the line on premium share, out-of-of pocket costs — and includes a commitment to immediately begin jointly developing a state employee wellness program.

StandUp4FairHC-WFSEThe contract covering all 60,000 represented classified state employees includes a provision allowing point-of-service costs to be reduced as a possible incentive in the wellness program that will aim to improve employee health and reduce health care costs. The state and the Health Care Coalition will begin this month to jointly develop wellness initiatives that would begin implementation by Jan. 1, 2014.

Under the Health Benefits Amount agreement, the premium share remains at 85 percent paid by the state and 15 percent by employees. This in the face of editorial board and anti-state employee think tank pressure to make employees pay at least 33 percent more for health insurance premiums. Those who want to balance the budget on state employees’ backs ignore the sacrifices made over the past five years that saved the state during the Great Recession. Tuesday’s agreement rejects that mentality and keeps premium share at the current 85/15 split.

The agreement makes some changes to the current Uniform Medical Plan caps on out-of-pocket costs to allow lower fees tied to wellness and to accommodate the new pharmacy provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The latter could end up saving employees even more.

This is a just a one-year agreement taking effect July 1, 2014, and affecting the health plans for calendar year 2015. That’s because the Health Care Coalition couldn’t reach agreement last year on a full, two-year health care article. The terms and conditions of the old agreement stay in effect until June 30, 2014. The new agreement covers premium share, co-pays and deductibles for only the plan year starting Jan. 1, 2015.

The agreement meets the Oct. 1 deadline to have a deal in place to forward to the governor’s budget office for inclusion in his 2014 supplemental budget request.

ALSO TODAY at The Stand — State employee health care deal looks like win-win for both sides (by Brendan Williams)

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