Monday, September 21, 2009

Public Hearings Continue on HB 5345

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan testified Thursday before a House panel considering House Bill 5345, a proposed mandatory state-run health plan for public employees. Asked if forcing workers into a state-run insurance program would save $900 million, as purported by bill sponsor Rep. Andy Dillon, Flanagan pegged the savings as "between zero and $900 million."

Flanagan told the House Public Employee Health Care Reform Committee that public schools might be able to further cut spending by consolidating services and wringing other efficiencies, though other expert witnesses have questioned the alleged savings in this proposal. Flanagan also told the panel that he didn't want to see his teacher-daughter lose her health benefits -- and, he said, collective bargaining helps public employees.

"I think people would be screwed if they weren't represented by unions," Flanagan told lawmakers.

Brian Morris, a senior consultant at Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co., said based on the information he's seen in the revised white paper, he doesn't have an estimate on the possible savings.
Mr. Brian Morris, who is a health care actuary who works with public employers, told lawmakers he does see a potential for savings, particularly the part about administration of benefits, but savings are lowered when there are more than "tens of thousands" of benefit recipients in the pool.

Wayne Cass, chair of the Coalition of Labor Organizations at Michigan State University, said there is no guarantee that some employees won't see benefit reductions. The proposal doesn't address the real issue of rising health care costs.

The committee's next public hearing is Sept. 24.

Please continue to contact your legislators!