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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 25, 201012:00 PM EST

Proposal would end free health insurance for lawmakers


by David Royse

The News Service of Florida


State lawmakers and their staff would have to begin paying for part of the cost of their health insurance under legislation that two lawmakers said Tuesday they’d file in hopes of saving the state as much as $56 million a year.

While most state workers pay $280 a month toward family coverage or $50 a month for an individual policy, legislators, legislative staff, senior management and Selected Exempt Service System employees — in all more than 25,000 employees with family coverage and another 9,000 with individual plans — don’t have to contribute to their coverage, though they do have co-pays.

Since the state’s budget has begun to shrink with the contracting economy, lawmakers on a couple of occasions have suggested ending the perk.

Backers of the benefit have said it helps compensate at-will state employees, who don’t have any job protections and could lose their jobs at anytime for any reason, or no reason at all.

But the state fund that pays for that insurance has a growing deficit.

On Tuesday, Rep. Marlene O’Toole (R-Lady Lake) and Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) said they planned to file legislation to require all currently exempted employees to contribute to the cost of their insurance.

“With taxpayers struggling to afford their own insurance, there is no reason that they should also be expected to pay for state employees’ health costs,” O’Toole said in a statement released by Republican House officials. “These benefit costs are driving other states towards bankruptcy and we need to protect taxpayers by making sure it does not happen here.”

O’Toole and Mayfield said that over the past four years the cost to the state for the benefits has gone up more than 30 percent.

Employees in the state university system aren’t included in the legislation the two Republican lawmakers said they’d file, because they have their own health insurance.

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