Two years ago the Oregon Legislature made the benefits package offered public employees a bit less generous. Now Gov. Kate Brown is talking about going back to the old, easy money ways. She should resist the temptation.
The 2017 Legislature, working to close a $1.6 billion budget gap, made a reasonable change to health insurance coverage for public employees. Before the law went into effect, if both spouses were employed by the state or a school district, one or both could sign up for health insurance through the Oregon’s Public Employee Benefit Board or the Oregon Educators Benefit Board. No problem there.
But double coverage occurred when one person was covered as a primary through the state and had subsequent coverage through their spouse. That changed on August 15, 2017, when Senate Bill 1067 went into effect.
When the House passed it, House Democrats described the bill as doing many things, including eliminating the practice of the state paying twice for employees. The idea was that it stop two practices. It would eliminate opt-out payments for people who are insured by the state who decline coverage by the state and are then enrolled under a spouse. And it would stop the state from paying two premiums to cover an employee — when one person is covered by the state and also has subsequent state coverage through a spouse.
Now Brown, who in her inaugural speech Jan. 14 bragged about her penny-pinching ways, may have changed her tune. In her speech she said, “During my entire time as governor, I have focused on spending every taxpayer dollar wisely.”
Just four days later she apparently backed off that idea and said she’d be open to allowing the state and school districts to pick up double coverage. The idea that the state would go back and pay twice for insurance coverage is ludicrous.