In September, the NJ State Health Benefits Commission approved new healthcare premiums for government workers raising rates by 21% for individual healthcare plans and 23% for local government health benefits. According to the New Jersey Association of Counties, these new rates will cost local governments more than $350 million.
Deputy Mayor, Walter Orcutt, announced that the township will foot $70,000 of that bill at a Blairstown Township Committee (BTC) meeting on Oct. 12. However, after meeting with the New Jersey Conference of Mayors, Orcutt doubts higher premiums will take effect.
On a Zoom call hosted by the organization representatives for Newark and other urban areas spoke about what these premiums mean for their budgets. According to Orcutt, larger townships intend to push back against rising healthcare costs. “They’re going to be doing something about this because they have to. It’ll probably work out very well in our favor.”
The portion of NJ’s budget dedicated to health care premiums for active and retired state employees increased by $570 million since last year. Governor Phil Murphy’s administration approved these costs without alerting labor representatives or local elected officials.
“So there’s a lot of problems with how this was done. Everyone understands healthcare costs go up… but [the Administration] has not been transparent,” explained Orcutt.
Some local governments are considering opting out of state-created healthcare plans to look for more cost-effective plans. Meanwhile, leaders are calling on Murphy to extend the deadline to enroll in the State Health Benefits Program so townships have time to weigh their options.
Healthcare costs will not impact state budgets until July 2024 and will depend on how negotiations progress over the next few months. At the BTC meeting, Orcutt reassured the township, “I think something will get worked out.”
Alex Tironi, Contributing Writer
A recent graduate of George Mason University in Virginia, Alex pursued a degree in journalism with a double minor in American Sign Language and nonprofit studies. She worked as assistant news editor to the Fourth Estate, the university newspaper where she reported on many things but mostly focused on campus crime and PD activity. While working for a nonprofit called the Borgen Project, she wrote about global health and poverty in third-world nations. Alex recently finished an internship writing and editing for a business consulting company in NY. Growing up in the area, she has always been active in her community and brings the same intention as a contributing writer for the Ridge View Echo.