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Weekly Address – February 18, 2022

Reporting from the state Capitol, I’m Senator Keith Ingram.

The legislature completed the first week of the 2022 fiscal session.

We approved budgets for dozens of state agencies and we also made progress on reforms in two major public health insurance systems.

For the past year a committee of legislators has been working on reforms to the state employee and teacher health insurance systems.

They were getting into financial trouble on a regular basis, and things got so bad that last year the legislature replaced their governing board.

One of our goals is to prevent spikes in health insurance premiums. It’s frustrating for teachers to get a pay raise, only to see most of it get eaten up by premium increases.

One way to achieve this goal is to provide legislators with more oversight authority over the systems.

Other legislation will require fiscal impact statements before legislators consider benefit changes, to avoid unexpected consequences.

We’re also going to require the insurance systems to increase their reserve funds, to ensure that they remain financially solvent.

Legislation will establish financial triggers, and if reserve funds get too low, members would increase contributions.

Another piece of legislation modifies eligibility for retirees who keep their public health insurance. It would require them to have participated for at least five years in order to get benefits.

Another bill sets new rules for health insurance coverage of morbid obesity through the use of bariatric surgery.

Judging by the progress we made this week, I think we can finish our business within a few weeks and adjourn.

The state Constitution limits fiscal sessions to 30 days, although we can extend it to 45 days if necessary.

From the Capitol, this is Senator Keith Ingram.


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