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Maragos, Mangano and Schumer Meet to Discuss Health Insurance Premiums

Maragos: County May Have to

Pay as Much as $52.8 Million More

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos, County Executive Edward Mangano, and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer met in Mineola last week to discuss the proposed 13.4 to 22.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums confronting municipalities for 2011. The New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) covers over a million workers throughout New York and the impact of the increase affects all municipalities such as school districts, counties, towns and villages. The final rate increase will be announced in October by NYSHIP, following negotiations with private insurance companies. In the previous eight years, final NYSHIP premium increases have averaged 8 percent, but the actual increase to premiums has been much lower.

“If these premium increases are allowed to come into affect, they will cost Nassau County up to $52.8 million more in 2010 and will have a devastating effect on the County finances as well as on the hard-pressed local taxpayers,” Maragos stated.

“It is no secret that Nassau County cannot shoulder anymore financial burdens,” said Mangano. “Working with Senator Schumer and Comptroller Maragos, we will continue to explore ways to prevent this job-killing tax hike from being passed on to families and employers who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

“I will work with my partners in Nassau County, County Executive Mangano and County Comptroller Maragos, to ensure that NYSHIP uses all of its leverage when negotiating with private insurance companies so that the County is not made to pay more than it can afford to maintain coverage for its workers,” said Schumer. “Now more than ever, NYSHIP needs to play hardball with private insurance companies to keep rates low. The three of us intend to push NYSHIP to do just that.”

The NYSHIP Program is administered by the New York State Department of Civil Service, which, in turn, contracts with several insurance companies to provide the health insurance benefits to state and municipality employees and retirees. The Department of Civil Service negotiates premium rates each year with the insurance companies. Last year, according to Commissioner Nancy Groenwegen in testimony, NYSHIP negotiated to reduce rates for 2010 by $226 million from what the insurers originally proposed.

Senator Schumer, County Executive Mangano and Comptroller Maragos pledged to work together and assist the County in three areas to significantly reduce the impact on the County and all New Yorkers from the proposed double-digit health insurance premiums increase:

• Work with New York State to quickly establish a Prior Approval in state law to apply pressure on NYSHIP and the Insurance Carriers to negotiate reasonable premiums increases.

• Assist the County with the Nassau County Oversight Board in accounting for the preliminary proposed increase.

• Continue efforts to deliver financial support to the County.

Last year, Schumer successfully fought to deliver $83 million in federal Medicaid relief to Nassau County, through a formula called FMAP, which ensures that localities receive budget aid directly in order to help mitigate possible tax hikes and reduce county budget cuts. Schumer is currently working to deliver substantial additional FMAP relief for Nassau County for 2011-2012. Bills that include this funding have passed both the House and Senate and a common bill is being hammered out now by a conference committee.

“The meeting was extremely constructive,” added Maragos. “Senator Schumer’s quick response and offer to assist the County in mitigating the impact of the skyrocketing health insurance premiums is greatly appreciated. We look forward to working closely with the senator to achieve affordable health insurance coverage for everyone.”