Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bosma Promising To Scale Back Health Insurance For Life Benefit

House Speaker Brian Bosma tells reporters today that “[s]ignificant changes are imminent” with respect to the “health insurance for life” benefit for former members of the House of Representatives according to the Star.

Bosma again declined to provide details to the media as to how he intends to administratively alter a statutory benefit. It is clear, however, that he does not intend to eliminate the plan; rather, he plans to “scale back” the existing benefit. It is also clear that Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton has no intentions of taking away the legislative perk, at least for now.

The Star article describes the benefit and the cost taxpayers have already incurred:

Under the current benefit plan, lawmakers who leave the General Assembly after serving at least part of four, two-year terms are eligible, along with their spouses, surviving spouses, divorced spouses and their dependents.

Since mid-2002, when legislative leaders began offering the benefit, the cost to taxpayers has risen rapidly and, as of 2005, exceeded $250,000 a year. In 2004, former lawmakers receiving the benefit paid between $710 and $1,900 a year for family dental, health and vision coverage. That represented a savings of $3,343 to $12,800 over the amount retired state employees pay for the same levels of coverage.

When Rep. Troy Woodruff (R-Vincennes) introduced legislation last year to end the benefit, Speaker Bosma had an entirely different view. The Star writes:

Bosma had said in 2005 that it was not the right time for the legislature to take on the issue. He said today he had been uncomfortable with the plan when he became speaker in November 2004.

The Star today quotes Bosma as saying: "At a time when corporate America is considering restructuring its health care benefits for retirees, I think it's very appropriate for the legislature to look at the same issue. As speaker, I assumed responsibility for those benefits." Bosma has, however, sent legislation Rep. Woodruff has re-introduced to repeal the benefit outright to the Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee where it is unlikely to receive a hearing.

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