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Granite State Employees Close to Contract

Concord — New Hampshire’s state workers would share health plan savings with the state under a tentative contract agreement being mailed for a ratification vote perhaps as early as Friday.

State workers could get up to $300 in 2014 and again in 2015 for participating in a wellness program, State Employees’ Association President Diana Lacey said Wednesday. She said the payments are incentives to promote good health and share in some of the savings from a healthier workforce.

The payments would be in addition to $200 workers have gotten annually if they fill out a health assessment form to use toward copayments. Lacey said workers could combine the two payments to use toward a new $500 deductible for a single employee and $750 for a family next year. The amount for the family rises to $1,000 in 2015.

Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office said other, smaller unions that settled contracts earlier will also get the new wellness benefit.

Lacey said the SEA hopes to start counting ballots in mid-November and sign a contract before open enrollment begins for the health plan in late November. The union represents 7,800 workers.

SEA leaders rejected a tentative agreement with the state in June largely over health care costs, particularly the new deductible. Lacey said negotiations since then resulted in improvements benefiting both sides. She said the wellness incentive program was a key to making sure workers shared in savings from changes to the health plan. The contract calls for any additional savings from the health plan to be rolled over and not used to for spending by state agencies, she said.

The contract would give workers their first raise in five years. The original deal called for a 1.5 percent raise in August. In lieu of retroactive pay, workers would get $300 in their Dec. 13 paycheck and the raise would not take effect after Christmas. Additional 2 ¼ percent increases would take effect in July and in January 2015.

Lacey said the plan calls for workers to pay a deductible for some services that had been covered at no cost to them. Employees can avoid the deductible for some services by going to a list of preferred providers. She said the deductible can’t be waived for certain services, but workers can reduce the cost by using a program called Compass to locate cheaper vendor. Workers also get an incentive payment for using Compass to use cheaper providers.

Workers will begin paying for their dental plan for the first time but receive more coverage in exchange, she said. A single person will pay $26 per year and receive a maximum benefit of $1,500 per year, a $300 increase. The plan also covers a third cleaning each year.

The state dropped a proposal to split sick leave into short-term and long-term programs.