For the past several years we have had good news to share about the SHBP rates and while for the most part, this is true again for 2022, there is some bad news for the early retiree group in county and municipal government.

As we go through these numbers, please understand that national estimates on medical inflation are 6.5%-7% for 2022.

State Employees

We can start with the State Group (Active and Retired State Employees). For active members in Direct 15, HMO and Tiered Plan (commonly Omnia) your total rates will DECREASE by 4.8%. For those of you who have moved into the new CWA Unity Plans your rates have INCREASED 4.8% as of the writing of this update, we are not aware of PBA units who have actually migrated into this plan.

This data shows one of two things,  that either the other units are benefitting from our lower cost risk pool or that the executive branch and their actuary for the set the original rates for the new plan artificially low.

For State Early Retirees (those from retirement to age 65) you will see an INCREASE between 4.4% or 4.6% depending on your plan selection (Direct 15 is 4.6% higher). State Medicare retirees will see an INCREASE of 4.9% for 2022.

Active County and Municipal Employees

Members in this group have once again done very well with increases ranging from 1.9% to 2.4% with Direct 10 and 15 experiencing a 2.3% INCREASE, which is very favorable comparing to the public sector and national indices.

Now the bad news.

Early County and Municipal Retirees ( under age 65)

Let me start by saying that in 2018, AON presented that the reserve fund had been growing at a tremendous rate. We knew that this money belonged to the true payors and lobbied that it be returned to the members, towns and municipalities which it was through short term rate reductions. This resulted in a rate DECREASE of just under 37%. Since then, that reserve has been exhausted and there is just no more money to use to subsidize the rates which will effectively RAISE 2022 rates 31.8%. The Commission, who sets the rates actually reduced the PROJECTED reserve to 0.1 months for 2022 in order to smooth the hike as much as possible.

Now before you kill the messenger, we would like to quote from the September 2018 COPS Magazine Article on health benefits, “It is important to remember that these rates are a result of events that are one time occurrences and, without design changes are unsustainable. The assignment of excess funds from the CSR and the lowered experience (which may or may not continue) gave us an adjustment for 2019. National trends range from 4 percent to 10 percent increases,…”

When analyzing the rates over time you should know that the 2022 rates even with the increase due to the removal of the CSR subsidy, are LOWER than they were in 2018 as shown in the graph above.

In fact the average yearly raise from the beginning of plan year 2013 through the end of 2022 is under 1.6%. Now we know this doesn’t put any money in your pocket but the context has to be solely in the realm of health benefits and that is what this is meant to explain. 

Now what does that mean to you? If you do not contribute to your health benefits or pay a percentage of your pension toward health benefits, it should have no effect on you.

Chapter 330 members have some decisions to make, as you know, Chapter 330 retirees have an arrangement where the state pays 80% of the lowest cost managed plan so for 2022 that baseline is determined off of the Horizon HMO 2030. While the rates are not yet out for Chapter 330, my calculations would show that a family that is in that plan with no members that are Medicare age would go from paying $380.99 to paying $500.78 a month. As members chose plans with higher actuarial value, that cost will increase to where Direct 10 could go from $850.89 a month to $1,129.06 a month by my calculations.

For early retirees who are contributing to their premiums due to Chapter 78, the math is pretty simple, increase your contribution for your current plan by 31% so if you are single in Direct 10 and your pension is $80,000 a year you would be contributing 34% of the cost of your healthcare. The premium is currently $957.58 per month which would leave you a contribution of $325.58 a month in 2021. In 2022 with a premium of $1,262.95 you would be contributing $429.40.

Understanding that this is substantial and that most of our members in retirement are in Direct 10 and 15, the harsh effect on your pension checks will most likely make you look for cost savings. As open enrollment is in the near future, I will make sure that we do a plan comparison so you can make decisions that are best for you and your family.

Medicare Age (65+) County and Municipal Retirees

These retirees for the Medicare Advantage population are also suffering a higher than usual raise of 6.9% on their premium. This is due to an 8.4% on medical and a 5.7% increase on prescription coverage These rates are much lower so the numbers are not as paralyzing but none the less in line with national trends.

What about the Teachers Premium Holiday

What makes this early retiree increase hard to swallow is the fact that the Educators just announced that the employees and school districts will not pay premium in February and will have a premium decrease.

That all sounds great in a press release but here are the facts.

In 2016, we took bold steps to control costs in the SHBP, the School Employee’s Plan did not, this resulted in huge savings for both actives and retirees. These savings are what have kept our premiums lower than theirs to this day. For 2022, the SHBP Direct 10 monthly rate for a family, including prescription is $2,726.15. The SEHBP monthly premium for 2022 is $2,864.65. To simplify the SEHBP plan is $138.50 more a month than the SHBP which is $1,662 more a year or 5.1% more for the School Employees Direct 10. A one month holiday would be an 8.33% reduction for one year.

This does not take into the 5 years that the School Employees paid more than us before making substantive changes in plan design to restrict abusive and predatory practices from occurring. This whole Holiday is the SEHBP giving the members back their own money, ironically in an election year. The educators plan continues to withhold the members money from them by maintaining a projected 6.3 month balance of premiums in the bank (the recommended number is 2 months). It is also important to know that retirees up to age 65 were forced into this plan.

Like the CWA plan, the new Educators plan changed payments from a Fair Health index to a Medicare index for out of network services. The percentage that they chose (200) sounds good, but is far lower than the current Fair Health National 90th percentile. This could expose our members to OON providers looking for larger payments from the member. The CWA/Direct 2019 plan rates show this concept, while possibly feasible in other payment structures, was flawed. The problem with relying on the in network payment structure, is that nobody but the carrier truly knows what it is!

Lastly is that in our experience, when new plans are developed the rates are set artificially. They are based on actuarial science, but not always exact. We suspect that the CWA/Direct plan premiums were set too low and that could have been one of the reasons for the almost 10% swing between plans this year. We hope their plan is successful and will watch it closely, but until the state demands network transparency from the carriers, we have to tread lightly in this realm.

Effect on Negotiations

No doubt, if you are in negotiations this will be a topic an employer will bring up, the fact of the matter is that local employers got a break for 4 years because of plan design changes and the rates are still LESS than they were in 2018. Remind them of that if they think it should have a place in negotiations, its also important for you to know that SHBP rate increases over the cap are outside of it.

This letter from the Chair of the PFRSNJ Board of Trustees is being sent this morning to the Certifying Officers of all PFRS locations. This letter will answer many of the questions that have been asked.

View Additional Information Here

After several days of discussions between the State PBA and Senate leaders, the Senate Budget Committee yesterday amended and moved forward Senate Bill 1017 to restore the 20s and Out benefit for PFRS members. 

There is no question that the anti-police rhetoric and attacks on our profession from politicians and special interest groups has caused many officers to consider an early retirement.  While there is overwhelming support to restore the 20 year retirement option, the potential stress that this could cause to the funding of the PFRS was a concern for some legislators. In order to get the ball moving on more quickly offering this benefit amendments were proposed in the Budget Committee to provide a roughly 2 year window for early retirements.

The amended bill would reestablish a 20 year retirement option for anyone currently enrolled, regardless of their year of enrollment in PFRS, but the benefit would be frozen again 25 months after the bill becomes law.  This will allow the State to analyze the impact of the retirement benefit for consideration of making the benefit permanent. 

While we would prefer that 20 and Out become permanent now this amendment makes it more likely the bill can move swiftly while its fiscal impact is analyzed in real time. 

The bill now requires a full Senate vote and consideration by the Assembly Budget Committee and the full Assembly. 

Governor Murphy announced today that retired officers will be permitted to obtain insurance to carry a firearm in an exemption to his Executive Order 83. The rule change issued today from the Department of Banking and Insurance comes weeks after State PBA leadership began one on one negotiations with the Governor's Office to ensure retired officers maintained their ability to get concealed carry insurance coverage out of recognition for our unique position as law enforcement officers in NJ under Federal and State law.

Finally, despite any claims by other groups or unions trying to take credit this victory was solely negotiated by the State PBA and we are grateful to the Governor and his team for making it happen.