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Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Middle Calls for State to Reduce Healthcare Increases

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By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – In a resolution passed at its Nov. 21 meeting, the Middle Township Committee called on Gov. Phil Murphy to use state controlled federal COVID relief funds to offset the increase in premiums for municipal employees.
In September, the New Jersey State Health Benefits Commission (SHBC) raised the premiums for the state health care program. The cost increase for state health benefits program (SHBP) for 2023 rose by almost 23%. Later that same day Phil Murphy cut a deal with the unions representing state workers, lowering the benefits cost increase to 3% for state employees only. No effort was made to reduce the burden for employees of the state’s 564 municipalities. Cape May County’s 16 municipalities have been grappling with various strategies for easing the impact of the surge in benefit expense.
The resolution says the state’s failure to provide assistance to the township in the face of such a historic rate increase will most probably result in “a significant increase in property taxes for Middle Township residents.”
Some towns offer health reimbursement accounts (HRA) as a part of the employee benefit package, which is a strategy that encourages employees to choose a lower premium health plan. These plans generally call for higher deductibles, higher copay amounts, and increase the employer contribution to the HRA. This is still a costly strategy for the municipality.  
On Nov. 11, the SHBC met with no new action on the rate increase facing local governments. One member, Dudley Berge, asked for an update on solutions to the premium hike and was told the matter would be discussed in closed session. The public, which would be faced with potential property tax increases, would not be privy to that conversation.
A number of public sector unions have launched a campaign to encourage employees to take action against the health benefit increases. lists time and place for scheduled rallies and information on how to contact representatives and other elected officials.
The impact of these rate increases will become increasingly visible as the 2023 municipal budget cycle begins in earnest.

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