JAC drafts ideas for legislative session

Jul 17, 2013 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Members of the Wyoming Joint Appropriations Interim Committee drafted ideas June 27-28 at Riverton City Hall in preparation for the next legislative session.

On June 27, representatives and senators of the JAC met with staff of the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, the state budget office and the Construction Management division. Revenue, volunteer firefighter pension and sequestration issues were on the agenda.

State health group plan

Ralph Hayes of the Department of Administration and Information reported to the committee that roughly 8,200 state employees currently are enrolled on his department's health plan. Other state workers on the plan include 2,500 retirees, 1,600 community college employees, 2,900 University of Wyoming employees, and 2,000 K-12 school district employees.

As of January 2013, roughly 16,700 employees and retirees in the political subdivisions also were enrolled in the state's group health plan, for a total of more than 35,000 health plan members statewide.

A political subdivision typically includes counties, cities, schools and other similar government entities.

Hayes said adding political subdivisions to the pool can provide improvements with carriers and add value with network discounts. Also, higher enrollment could stabilize claim costs.

Political subdivisions would enter a five-year agreement and not have to construct the benefits programs themselves.

Hayes wrapped up his presentation saying that to participate in the plan, there is a half-time eligibility requirement of 20 hours of work a week. The committee suggested drafting an option to increase that requirement to the industry level of 30 hours a week.

Hayes said one risk is that younger or healthier employees may opt out of participating in the state health plan because of the high cost, while older or "higher risk" employees participate, creating an increase in the ''per capita costs of the state's program."

Representatives from BOCES and BOCHES of Fremont, Uinta and Carbon counties approached the committee and said they would like to offer Wyoming state health insurance to their employees.

In the 2010 legislative session, K-12 school districts were given the OK to participate in the state health group plans.

On June 28, the committee spoke with Thom Williams and Steve Sommers of the Wyoming Retirement System board and updated them on investment numbers and plans. The JAC also heard from Mary Ellen Young -- a Park County commissioner and executive director at Miners' Hospital --¬as she described market comparisons and state employee compensation.

The JAC will meet again in October in Casper and in November in Cheyenne.

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