Some Fear Vote Could Make North Carolina ‘First in Flight, Last in Health’

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State Health Plan board members may vote to ax a very popular insurance plan for Tar Heel state employees on Friday. And down the road, spousal benefits might be at risk, too.

North Carolina, a state that’s already known for being among the worst for teacher pay , might be known in coming years for offering the worst health insurance options to state workers.

That depends on a vote scheduled for Friday, when State Health Plan Board of Trustees members will consider a recommendation to eliminate the very popular 80 / 20 PPO health insurance plan for North Carolina’s state employees, retirees and teachers and prompt cost increases for other coverage options. (Update: The vote on the 80 / 20 plan " will be delayed until a later date .")

Also under discussion: A recommendation to eventually eliminate spousal benefits under the State Health Plan, according to WRAL-TV’s NCCapitol .

That potential change would force many spouses to look at federal health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act as a coverage alternative. But changes to spousal benefits have not yet been formally proposed and would need to be authorized by the state legislature, as WNCT-TV reports .

The State Employee Association of North Carolina , the Tar Heel State’s largest union representing state employees, has been warning its members of the looming health plan changes up for consideration on Friday.

“If they do this to the State Health Plan, we need state license plates that read: ‘First in Flight, Last in Health,” Brad Stone, SEANC’s director of operations, said in a recently posted video, referring to the pioneering aviation feat at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers.

The State Health Plan board is under pressure to cut costs from North Carolina’s legislature, which is controlled by Republicans.

"In the 2015 Budget, the General Assembly required the Board to reduce cost growth to the state contribution for the 2017-19 fiscal biennium while maintaining significant cash reserves," Brad Young, press secretary for the Office of State Treasurer, wrote in an email to NCCapitol.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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