Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is under fire from local government leaders and some state lawmakers as municipalities and counties in New Jersey grapple with an unprecedented double-digit rate increase on premiums for state health benefit plans.
New Jersey’s State Health Benefits Commission in September voted 3-2 to approve rate hikes of more than 20% on health plans that cover more than 800,000 state and local government workers, including a 22.8% rate increase on premiums for local and county governments.
“We would have to turn off the lights in Pleasantville and lock the door if this increase goes through,” Pleasantville Mayor Judy Ward said Wednesday during a joint press conference with dozens of other mayors, county leaders, local government lobbyists and a handful of Democratic state lawmakers.
“We’re already an overburdened community,” Ward said. “I hope the governor and all those responsible will hear us and give us the relief that we need.”
The rate hike is expected to cost local governments in New Jersey more than $350 million, according to New Jersey Association of Counties Executive Director John Donnadio.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said the rate hikes are expected to cost his city about $24 million, “and that does not include all of the other expenses that are growing here in the city.”
“I think the insurance companies should take a hit as well,” Baraka said. “It is inhumane to ask us to pay this much money in the middle of what’s going on.”
The sharp increase in premiums is hitting local governments just as federal COVID relief funds are beginning to dry up and local leaders are confronting rising costs for a wide range of government services amid record-high inflation.
Many leaders on Wednesday expressed concerns about filling holes in local budgets, and they only have one source to