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Health Insurance/Premium Relief for Special Hospital Districts and Local Governments
On May 28, 2014, Coquille Valley Hospital nurses were notified by the hospital’s attorney of a “truly ugly situation developing with respect to the renewal cost of the Health and Welfare coverage at Coquille Valley.”

PacificSource, the insurance carrier for all the employees not just the nurses, told the hospital that based on recent claims experience and the size of the employee group, they would be proposing either a 47 percent or 52 percent increase in insurance rates/premiums, specifically for medical insurance. Yes you read that correctly!

Based on the way the contract was negotiated, the nurses would have been looking at either significant premium increases, a reduction in the plans coverage (higher co-pays, higher deductibles, or great cost sharing) or some combination of the two starting on July 1.

However, because the hospital is part of a special health district and because of a change in state law during the 2013 legislative session that several different unions supported, the outcome for these nurses and all the employees at the hospital, was much different.

In the 2013 legislative session, House Bill 2279 was passed. The bill allowed for local government entities to participate in either the Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB) or the Oregon Educators Benefits Board (OEBB). The change in the law allowed these two entities to provide health insurance to state and university employees, to public school teachers, other education professionals and staff, local governments, and to special districts, including hospital districts.

The hospital was willing to have our benefits be provided for and administered by the OEBB. This will enable the hospital and its employees, all its employees, to avoid a 52% increase in the cost of our insurance. They gained a fairly similar health insurance plan with a significantly reduced cost for the monthly premium.

Had it not been for unions advocating for HB 2279 in the 2013 legislative session, the Coquille Valley Hospital nurses would be looking at a significant premium increase and probably reductions in their coverage and plan design in order to bring the projected premium increase down to something more manageable.

Is your bargaining unit part of a local government or are you a special hospital district? The next time you are in bargaining, look into whether or not joining the OEBB or PEBB makes sense to propose. It could lead to better insurance and reduced cost for nurses and other employees and for the facility.

To see the details of how all this transpired, go to the Coquille Valley Hospital bargaining unit webpage and look at the information in the various news and handouts.

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