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HomeNewsState Workers to Expand Wellness Program, Build on "Collaboration" to Achieve Savings

State Workers to Expand Wellness Program, Build on “Collaboration” to Achieve Savings

“The agreement we worked out with AFT Connecticut and the other participating SEBAC units is providing the state with savings that are the result of cooperation and collaboration among state agencies, management, and labor,” said Governor Malloy. “Our agreement is significant because it is producing the kind of long-term, structural reform that we need and was achieved by respecting the collective bargaining process and working collaboratively.  All parties involved were able to negotiate in good faith and produce real results for the people of Connecticut,” he said.
 
The governor’s comments refer to a 2011 job security and cost savings agreement that was projected to trim the state budget by $1.6 billion over a two-year period. The HEP was a signature component of the pact and its anticipated cost savings contributed to extending health coverage for active and retired state employees for an additional five years. 
 
“This program is a perfect example of what can be achieved when we work with state and municipal employee unions as our partners in making government more efficient,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said. “The Governor and I came into office with a promise to change government for the better, and this is proof that we are doing it by valuing the ideas of both management and frontline workers,” she said.
 
The lieutenant governor’s comments refer to the Malloy Administration’s approach to producing cost savings while preserving healthcare coverage and retirement security for the state’s workforce. The agreement with SEBAC bucked that year’s national trend of politicians stripping public employees of their negotiating rights and eroding their wages and benefits. The HEP helped stabilize the state’s health plan and exemplifies the spirit of the Solution-Driven Unionism project, a partnership with the Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT Innovation Fund. 
 
“We had to come together. A unifying point for the coalition was that we wanted to be part of the solution,” said Jean Morningstar, a vice president of AFT Connecticut who recently retired after 27 years of service at the UConn Health Center in Farmington. “We, in the end, understand that if we aren’t working together then we have no chance,” she said.
 
Morningstar’s comments refer to SEBAC union leaders’ proposal to establish the HEP and the months-long negotiations with the Malloy Administration that produced their job security and cost savings agreement. The pact was ratified by state employees in August of 2011, and by May of 2012, 99 percent of the workforce had signed up to enroll in the program. 
 
“The Health Enhancement Program is bringing employees and their families closer to primary care — resulting in better outcomes for both patients and the plan,” said State Comptroller Kevin Lembo. “We anticipate the long-term health and cost benefits of HEP, but have been extremely pleased with some of the immediate benefits, including emergency room visits trending lower in the active employee plan and slower growth in the per-member cost of health care. I look forward to building on the early success of the program in collaboration with labor and management – and expanding the program to towns and cities throughout the state through the Connecticut Partnership Plan,” he said.
 
Lembo’s comments refer to the expansion of the state health plan “pool” to include municipal and school district employees in order to achieve further cost savings and improved health outcomes. The partnership enables smaller public agencies to benefit from reduced administration fees, lower rates and innovative plans — including the HEP — by joining forces with the largest employer in the state.
 
“We hope to reclaim the promise of quality public services for stronger communities,” said AFT Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence. “In every constituency of our union, we are working to develop solutions that address the serious problems we face in maintaining and improving public services. We are reaching out to the broader community, to employers, to businesses, to community organizations and to other unions to build support for ideas that support programs that help support the common good,” she said.
 
AFT Connecticut is planning a public awareness effort to encourage municipalities and school districts where members of their affiliated unions serve to join the partnership and participate in the HEP. The University of Michigan’s Center for Value-Based Insurance Design has analyzed the program and recently reported that “the Connecticut experience demonstrates the ability of management and labor to reach consensus on significant changes to ‘business as usual’ in health plan design, even in challenging fiscal environments.”
 
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AFT Connecticut is a labor federation of more than 29,000 women and men, including 10,000 Connecticut state employees who provide a diverse range of vital services; higher education administration and faculty, healthcare, vocational education, financial management and planning, probation and child support enforcement, banking and fiscal regulation, forensic investigations and analysis, and facilities inspection and enforcement. Follow the union on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.
 

 

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