The State of New Jersey is contemplating the elimination of healthcare benefits for certain emergency responders. The New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association took to Facebook to rally the troops in opposition.

Join us to protest the elimination of retiree health benefits in West Orange. The West Orange PBA and SOA have asked for statewide assistance at a rally to protest the ratification of a local fire department contract that will eliminate retiree health benefits for new hires and make them ineligible for Chapter 330.

 

President Patrick Colligan said:

“This is a dangerous step, to remove health care for people who most need it makes no sense. The impact of the decision West Orange will make Tuesday will forever change its community.

They will have higher turnover of personnel and be known as a place you start a career, but never stay. Staffing levels will be difficult to maintain, and the quality of service may diminish.

Cost will increase for basic training and overtime as people continuously leave. Please join us at this critical rally to send a message our benefits are sacred.”

According the PBA, here is the pertinent backstory.

West Orange PBA and SOA have proposed returning the town to the NJ State Health Benefits Plan, which would save the town approximately $4 million dollars. But Mayor Robert Parisi, who is an insurance broker by profession, is more interested in supporting his industry than doing what is right.

In 2012 the state estimated that counties and municipalities could save $100 million by switching to the State Health Benefits Plan, which pays no broker commissions. If counties, municipalities and school districts would institute competitive bidding and bar insurance brokers from getting paid a percentage by the firms they recommend.

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Simply put, this is a giveaway to the insurance industry at the expense of the health of West Orange police, fire and public employees.

In an article from New Jersey Spotlight, information details the amount of money lost by municipalities because they use high-priced brokers to manage their insurance plans.

And to State Comptroller Matthew Boxer and Citizens Campaign Chairman Harry Pozycki, it’s a simple question: Why are New Jersey’s county and municipal governments and school districts spending tens of millions of property tax dollars unnecessarily on high-priced insurance plans and broker fees?

Mayor Robert Parisi, who is an insurance broker by profession, is more interested in supporting his industry than doing what is right. (West Orange)

 

In a report done by Boxer’s office, they concluded that the 14 counties and 217 municipalities not participating in the State Health Benefits Plan could save taxpayers $100 million by switching to the state plan, which pays no commission to insurance brokers and averages just 1 percent in administrative overhead, compared with 15 percent in the private market.

“Since the broker’s profit often is directly related to the amount of insurance premiums or fees the LGU [local government unit] pays, there are conflicting incentives for brokers in seeking lower-cost healthcare alternatives,” Boxer noted.

According to the spotlight: Pozycki pegs the potential savings at more than $200 million if counties, municipalities and school districts would institute competitive bidding and bar insurance brokers from getting paid a percentage by the firms they recommend.

It’s also creates a politically sensitive question, because the biggest name in the insurance brokerage business for local governments is George Norcross, the South Jersey Democratic power broker and often ally of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Norcross’s firm, Conner Strong & Buckelew, is by all accounts, the biggest player in New Jersey’s local government insurance market, and could have the most to lose if Boxer’s and Pozycki’s recommendations to adopt the low-cost State Health Benefits Plan by municipalities, counties, and school districts forced to look harder for cost savings because of the new 2 percent spending cap.

 

The New Jersey PBA is not the only one actively fighting for benefits. Back in May, we shared the following story from New York.

Officers are getting hurt on the job and the NYPD is denying officers coverage for the injuries, according to a police union head.

Why?

That’s what they’re suing over.

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch filed the petition in Manhattan Supreme Court against the New York Police Department.  

He says it’s because they have a “practice of denying NYPD police officers…line of duty benefits without providing those Police Officers with any written reason or explanation for denying them this vital statutory benefit.”

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And that obviously creates huge problems when cops’ applications and appeals are turned down. It means they are responsible for co-pays and deductibles from their private insurance.  It also makes them vulnerable to lawsuits and can affect future applications for disability retirement, according to the argument in the court documents.

They’re also said to be left at a disadvantage when appealing because the cops don’t have explanations for the denials.  And according to the PBA, that leaves the association responsible for the costs investigating the reasons for the denials, the lawsuit claims.

“The PBA has uncovered mistakes by the NYPD in denying LOD [line of duty] applications, mistakes which would have otherwise gone uncorrected if the reasons for the denials had not been diligently pursued by the PBA,” the court papers say.

In March, the PBA made a formal demand to NYPD Deputy Inspector of the Medical Division Nicole Papamichael and Deputy Commissioner of Labor Relations John Beirne for the NYPD to start this long overdue practice. 

But according to court documents, it hasn’t yet received a response.

A “police source” told the New York Post that officers can ask over the phone for the reason for their benefits denial.  That “source” said it’s preferred to a written explanation because of privacy concerns.

That lawsuit names the city, the NYPD, Papamichael and Beirne as defendants.

“We will review the lawsuit once we are served.” 

That was the only comment from a spokesperson with the Law Department said.

NYPD spokesman Phil Walzak said, “We will review the litigation.”

 


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