Doing Something (Nothing) on NJ Health Care Costs

Per a press release from the governor’s office:

Governor Phil Murphy today announced that the Murphy Administration has reached a health care benefits agreement with labor groups, including the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), a cost-cutting deal that will save the state and local governments nearly half a billion dollars ($496 million) in savings. The agreement includes $274 million in savings in the coming plan year for health care costs for public employees and retirees and another $222 million in year 2020 from the adoption of Medicare Advantage for both SHBP and SEHBP retirees and introduction of a new health plan focused on in-network care. The reforms were passed today through a committee-level vote on the Schools Employees’ Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) Plan Design Committee (PDC). The plan is scheduled for a final vote by the School Employees’ Health Benefits Commission (SEHBC) on Wednesday, September 19th.

According to an analysis this agreement between the unions and the politicians they bought will do three things:

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Pension Reform for Weasels

“This is a pivotal moment in our state’s history. We’ll seize it like honorable men and women or squander it like pandering, spineless weasels.”

New Jersey state senator Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth on Public Pension Reform

The set of reforms proposed this time are weaselly in themselves but the answer to Senator O’Scanlon’s query may lie in this remarkable simulation of how laws get enacted in New Jersey.

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Fault In Our States

In New Jersey, some want public workers to give up benefits to fix the state’s underfunded pension system. That’s puzzling to Governor Phil Murphy.

“It’s the state’s fault that we’ve got the deficit we have,” Murphy, 61, said in an interview Thursday after speaking at the Global Climate Summit in San Francisco. “Why would you do that if it’s the state’s fault?”

Bloomberg 9/14/18

Easy answer.

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Taxes In Fear

Among the tales of West Wing backbiting and foreign policy bunglings in Bob Woodward’s Fear is one chapter (35) on the “only major legislation passed [in] his first year”: tax reform. Another round is coming that, as it relates to retirement plans, seems sensible but the backstory of those 2017 reforms reflects the chaos of Trump’s first year.

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Selling Multiemployer Bailout

According to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), citing the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it will only cost $34 billion over the next 10 years for a bailout of multiemployer plans. Back on July 16 the CBO put the estimate for the Butch Lewis Act of 2017 (S.2147), which would provide government-backed loans to financially struggling plans while avoiding cuts to retiree benefits, at $100 billion over 10 years with this proviso:

The results of a formal cost estimate could differ substantially in either direction based on further clarification.

$34 billion might not even cover Central States but there is one other point that the CBO might not be considering.

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Christie In Fear

The first five chapters of Bob Woodward’s Fear take us from Trump’s presidential aspirations to his election with Steve Bannon seemingly dictating most of the journey. This is the only section of the book where Chris Christie is mentioned, usually in conjunction with an expletive. Excerpts follow:

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Pension Provisions of New Republican Tax Plan

Bob Woodward’s Fear is now available with its narrative of a dysfunctional executive surrounded by a combination of traitors and dedicated public servants looking to keep the country on the right path notwithstanding the distractions. Among the latter group are Republicans on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee which just released a tax plan that would:

I work with retirement plans so I can speak to some of the proposals in the second bullet point which, for the most part, make sense:

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