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HomeNewsArchivesGovernor Signs Health Insurance Renewal Into Law

Governor Signs Health Insurance Renewal Into Law

Two of the more time-sensitive bills sent to the governor’s desk after last week’s marathon Senate session were signed into law Monday, including a renewal of the government’s group health insurance plan, which expires Sept. 30.
The renewal covers medical, dental, life, accidental death and dismemberment and vision insurance for government employees, retirees and their dependents through the end of fiscal year 2011. In a letter sent Monday to Senate President Louis P. Hill along with the bill, Gov. John deJongh Jr. explained that he had already signed the government’s original contracts with CIGNA — the carrier for all except the vision plans — before this bill, which needed to be ratified by the Senate, left the floor last week.
An amendment attached to the bill by senators makes clear that the GESC Health Insurance Board of Trustees — the entity that negotiates the rates for CIGNA on behalf of the government — must submit the proposed health insurance package to the Legislature every year and has the duty to appear before the Legislature to answer questions about the plan when asked.
GESC representatives were summoned by the Senate a few months ago for a Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee meeting called to get a status update on how negotiations with CIGNA were going. At the time, few of the invited testifiers had appeared, and senators were told that the proposed rates could not be revealed because discussions were not yet completed.
In a subsequent hearing, however, GESC Board Chairman John Abramson said medical premiums were jumping by a little more than 7 percent, which is less than the approximately 13 percent proposed by CIGNA. Dental premiums are expected to increase 10 percent; while life and accidental dismemberment benefit costs will stay the same, and vision plan rates will decrease by 12 percent.
Board members have said that creating a healthier government workforce through wellness and preventive health care initiatives would substantially lower costs, along with getting the government to pay its health insurance premiums on time.
The board will be putting the plans out to bid in 2011, officials have said.
Changes in the renewal agreement, which are meant to coordinate with recently enacted federal health care reforms, include: the elimination of the $3 million lifetime maximum, the extension of coverage for dependents until the age of 26, and the removal of the 90-day pre-existing limitation for children under age 19.
Also signed into law Monday was a bill that adjusts two appropriations in the fiscal year 2010 budget — adding $2 million onto the Health Department’s budget and $1.2 million for the Office of Management and Budget to pay the third-party fiduciary.
The bill also: increases the number of fiscal years the government is allowed to borrow money to cover its projected budget shortfalls; puts $6.4 million from the Union Arbitration Award and Government Employees’ Increment Fund toward negotiated salary increases for the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union, United Steelworkers’ Enforcement Officers and corrections officers under the Seafarers International Union; and cuts the requirement that any lending institution providing a letter of credit to the government to cover costs against the Insurance Guaranty Fund be federally insured.

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