Report: Minnesota's state employee health insurance plan among the nation's most generous

  • Article by: STEVE KARNOWSKI , Associated Press
  • Updated: August 13, 2014 - 10:49 AM

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota state employees get 94 percent of their health care costs covered by insurance, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

That's higher than the national average for state workers of 92 percent. It's richer than the average plans offered for sale under the federal health care law, roughly equivalent to platinum plans sold on the state's health insurance exchange, MNsure. And it's better than the plans most private employers provide, which are generally in the 80 percent range.

But Jim Monroe, retired executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, said state workers have chosen repeatedly over the years to forgo higher wages in favor of higher health care benefits. He said their wages have grown slower than pay in the private sector as a result.

"We were paying for the benefits," said Monroe, who served as a union consultant for health issues during last year's contract talks.

The average total premium per Minnesota state employee was $1,063 last year, or $100 above the national average.

The Pew report also said Minnesota's state health plan spending increased 2 percent from 2011-13 — the same percentage as the national average — or from $634 million to $651 million.

Minnesota's plan covers all state workers, staff and faculty in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and the Legislature. Officials with Minnesota Management and Budget, which administers the plan, had not seen the report and weren't immediately able to comment on it, spokesman John Pollard said.

Public employees have proposed health care innovations over the years that have saved taxpayers billions of dollars, said Eliot Seide, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5. For example, he said, the unions several years ago proposed reducing the number of pharmacy benefit manager companies dealing with the state from four to one, saving $5 million in the first year alone.

"We think it is a real balanced approach. We think that not only do we have good health care but we have fiscally intelligent health care," Seide said.

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