Many local governments with public safety employees have faced the challenge of containing costs of benefits granted pursuant to the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA), entitling employees and their dependants to lifetime health insurance benefits at no charge when an employee suffers a disabling line of duty injury or fatality. Identifying a “basic insurance plan” that PSEBA beneficiaries will receive was a statutory right for employers under PSEBA and one way that employers contained these costs. Often this meant that beneficiaries were transferred from a premium benefit level to a more affordable plan when the employer offered more than one level of coverage.
The state legislature has changed that. HB 2568 entitles unionized PSEBA beneficiaries to receive the health insurance coverage identified in the applicable collective bargaining agreement and makes the available plans a mandatory subject of bargaining. This change means that the coverage level for PSEBA beneficiaries is no longer in the sole discretion of the employer and this issue becomes another topic in the mix at the bargaining table. Health insurance coverage for PSEBA recipients will be as much of a contested issue during negotiations as health insurance for active employees is. Additionally, employers will need to carefully bargain this language to allow for changes to PSEBA recipients when the employer changes benefits to other employees.
The legislation awaits the Governor’s signature. Stay tuned for updates.