Statement by TSEA President Bryan Merritt on the state health insurance plan being used as political theatre during the Insure Tennessee debate
The Tennessee State Employees Association is disappointed by allegations during the Insure Tennessee debate that the state health insurance plan is a taxpayer subsidy.
Our state health insurance is not a subsidy. It’s a benefit of employment that every state employee earns by their service to the state of Tennessee, including our state legislators.
To be competitive in its hiring efforts versus other large business entities, the State of Tennessee offers health insurance to its employees. But that insurance is not free. In addition to the 20% that state employees pay directly, state employees receive a reduced salary in exchange for the benefit. In effect, state employees pay for all of the insurance they receive one way or the other.
While state legislators may be classified as part-time employees, they are subject to being ‘on call’ to their constituents seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. They earn their right to state insurance every day.
Anyone who says this is a subsidy simply does not understand insurance. Legislators who do not enroll in the state insurance plan typically have access to other insurance options through their private employment or family. Not all legislators have the luxury of that option.
We would hope no legislator feels they must withdraw from the state insurance system because of inaccurate, disingenuous political attacks over this benefit. The debate over Insure Tennessee should be focused on the merits of the proposal.
The state insurance plan provides coverage to over 270,000 state and local government employees and their family members. TSEA has taken no position in the debate over Governor Haslam’s plan to extend Medicare benefits under his Insure Tennessee proposal.
Founded in 1974, TSEA represents the rights and interests of 40,000 state employees in Tennessee and has a rich history of improving the lives of its state employee members. For further information, visit TSEA’s website at www.tseaonline.org.