New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Colligan sent the following message to the members of the NJSPBA updating them on the latest developments on the State Health Benefit Plan.:

Today, the members of the State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee attempted to mitigate the unconscionable rate increase with 5 resolutions that would have saved at least 20% of the 24% rate increase proposed by the State’s Actuary.

The labor members of the design committee proposed the following changes that were immediately rebuffed by Governor Murphy’s appointees on the board all ending in a 6-6 tie. These motions will now have to go to super conciliation, which will further delay any reduction in the State Health Benefits premiums.

1.    Evaluate a cohort of “point solutions” that were implemented during the covid pandemic which by the divisions own statements are not producing substantial outcomes. This includes the current navigation and advocacy program that is named in the rate renewal reports as accountable for up to 6.5 percent of the rate increases.

2.    Institute a Medical Specialty Pharmacy program that would immediately allow the State’s pharmacy benefits manager, OPTIM RX, to utilize their current program for the next plan year while they procured an outside vendor that was not associated with the state’s pharmacy benefit manager, the third party administrator. Members of the PDC were in attendance at a presentation on September 3, 2021, where information was provided that this program would provide $1.18 BILLION dollars over three years.

3.    A resolution exploring reference based pricing which was recommended in the Governor’s Task force report. This would make the payments made to hospitals and other providers transparent and controlled by the plan and not the third party administrator. This would easily produce savings of 10% on the medical spend.

4.    Expansion of titles for the First Responders Primary Care Medical Home this would allow more members access to high quality primary care which would decrease rates over time.

5.    Create a claims stabilization reserve fund that would disallow the state from “sweeping” the accounts every year especially when they have excess funds at the end of the year.   

The State members believe that all of these are outside the scope of the plan design committee, a statement that is false. While the claims stabilization reserve resolution, may be under the authority of the Commission, the other four are undoubtedly plan design issues. This is just another example of the inability of the Treasury and the Division to hold their vendors to account.

In other business, the plan design committee approved the continuing resolutions that continue formulary management, lower copays for retirees, a tiered network incentive, and out of network pt costs controls.

Two other resolutions were passed that were part of a package that the State unions struck whereby they will see a 3% increase in their contribution rates. These were a $30 increase in urgent care copays and a $15 increase in specialist copays for the state members in the CWA Unity and Direct plans. When questioned on the value of these changes the state would not answer on the specialist and stated it was .2% on the urgent care, meaning that the plan design changes had no bearing on the cost.

Immediately after the PDC meeting the Commission met and defied requests to delay the rate renewal process. The labor commissioners were ignored and questions left unanswered.

We will continue to work on a plan for our members going forward to try to mitigate the drastic increases our members will face in 2023. We will keep you advised of any new developments and a plan of action before open enrollment. It is obvious that through their actions that the state thinks more about their relationships with their vendors than they do with public workers.

Today the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a 5-2 decision denying the NJ State PBA’s request to stay the order of the Appellate Division that upheld Governor Murphy’s vaccination mandate that applies to all State and County Correctional Police Officers. Despite two justices voting in favor of granting our request for a stay, we recognize that the Court has spoken.

The State PBA along with our 11,000 members that are affected by this mandate are disappointed that we were unsuccessful in this challenge. We are currently reviewing this decision with legal counsel to ensure that our members have a firm understanding of the decision and can undertake any individual appellate rights that they may have available to them.

Governor Murphy signed two bills of great importance to the State PBA today prior to the end of his first term in office.  The State PBA had initiated the drafting and quick movement of the bills to address two serious and pressing needs for PBA members across the State.  These bills close out a highly successful legislative session for State PBA initiated bills to protect and enhance the law enforcement profession in New Jersey.

First, in order to address a law and AG policy that prohibited an officer from reviewing their Body Worn Camera (BWC) footage when writing their initial reports, the State PBA proposed Assembly Bill 5864 to correct the policy.  The bill signed by the Governor today expressly permits an officer to review their BWC when writing initial reports except in certain matters relating to the use of a firearm, death, violation of the excessive use of force policy or other similar serious matters.  

The law will ensure accuracy in countless police reports and assist officers to properly record a situation.  The State PBA is grateful to the bill sponsor and State PBA member, Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, for her leadership in pushing the bill and to Governor Murphy for working with the State PBA on it.

Second, in order to address the depletion of public safety spending on officer salary and equipment in Atlantic City since the State takeover of the city, the State PBA worked closely with Senate President Steve Sweeney and the State FMBA on a bill to establish a $2 room fee on every casino hotel guest room that will be set aside in a special fund for use only for officer salary, training, retention and equipment.  

Senate Bill 4311 will raise millions per year that will restore Department funding and officer morale to the Atlantic City Police Department.  The bill will assist in retaining officers in the Department and provide much needed finances to restore officer salary that was cut before and after the State takeover six years ago.  The State PBA is truly grateful to Senator Sweeney for immediately saying yes when asked to sponsor this bill and, along with Speaker Coughlin, for making it a lame duck priority.  We applaud Governor Murphy for working with us to develop additional language to ensure that the money is secured and its spending prioritized to benefit the Officers and the City.

WOODBRIDGE - New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan today called on Trenton Council President Kathy McBride to allow a vote to take place on the resolution she recently tabled allocating $4 million in coronavirus relief funds for new radio equipment for the city’s first responders. 

McBride’s decision to pull the resolution without explanation in advance of Tuesday’s council meeting means Trenton’s police and first responders will soon have no means of communication to coordinate in the event of an emergency and can only result in putting city residents in peril. 

“Council President McBride appears to be prioritizing anything but the people she is supposed to represent in refusing to allow this resolution to come to a vote,” said Colligan.  “It is imperative that Trenton police and first responders have the means to effectively communicate and coordinate in the event of an incident, and the resources are available to achieve the commonsense solution of providing those services.  There is only one outcome for residents if this misguided decision to table Tuesday’s resolution is allowed to move forward, and it would simply defy all reason to knowingly put city residents in danger.”

In a private ceremony in his office Governor Murphy today signed into law legislation the State PBA has pursued for years to ban police departments from using tickets and citations as a way to evaluate as well as punish officers.  The new law removes tickets and citations issued by an officer from their “performance evaluations” and prevents discipline for officers using tickets as a justification. 

“For far too long unscrupulous local governments and police supervisors have tried to establish inappropriate ticket quotas,” State PBA President Pat Colligan said after the signing.  “Police officers are not revenue collectors as some towns have tried to make them and creating quotas means ordering an officer to target motorists or face punishment.  That ends today.”

The private bill signing was attended by State PBA leadership in recognition of the PBA’s initiation of the bill and its pursuit of passing it this session. 

“I want to thank our sponsors Senator Turner, Senator Addiego, Assemblyman Wirths, Assemblyman Taliaferro and all the co-sponsors for taking on this fight for us”, Colligan said. “This law will go far to further build trust between New Jersey police and the public.”

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