Written by County Comptroller Howard S. Weitzman Wednesday, 03 June 2009 15:16
Healthcare issues have always been at the forefront of my policy initiatives, both as County Comptroller and during the 35 years spent in the healthcare field. Throughout my two terms, I have been a squeaky wheel when it comes to finding ways to trim the escalating costs of Nassau County’s health benefits. Several years ago I persuaded the County Legislature to eliminate the practice of offering two family health benefit policies to one family, to lengthen the number of years of employment required to vest lifetime retiree health benefits and to increase the health benefit buy back amount to encourage employees with other coverage options to drop County health benefits.
Last year County Executive Tom Suozzi and I released a report showing that the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) was over-collecting premiums from local governments and had accumulated an excessive $540 million on top of statutory reserves. The State agreed and applied some of the excessive premium to keep the 2009 rate increase to an average 1 percent, instead of the 7 percent originally forecasted by NYSHIP. This effort saved Nassau County taxpayers approximately $11 million in health insurance premiums for 2009 and approximately $116 million for local schools and governments. I will also be working to recoup a portion of the excess NYSHIP premiums charged in prior years – an amount equal to $540 million statewide and $21 million for Nassau County, that could be made as a one month premium holiday for all NYSHIP participants. The vast majority of Nassau’s schools and local governments also participate in NYSHIP.
Recently I received an appointment to the New York State Health Insurance Program Participating Agency Advisory Council (PAAC). This is good news for taxpayers because now I will have the ear of the people who make the policies. Nassau County is the largest local government participating agency in NYSHIP and prior to my appointment, no one from Nassau County had served on the board! The Council also includes representatives from other participating agencies, such as local school districts. Nassau County Director of Risk Management John Brooks was also named to the PAAC.
As a member of this council I will continue my call (and the use of my squeaky wheel) for an outside review of NYSHIP because I believe there are many more opportunities for savings and I look forward to serving Nassau County.