PEBB adopts some HEM reforms, fails to suspend surcharges

I just finished testifying at the PEBB meeting regarding the wish of thousands of SEIU members that PEBB change the way the Health Engagement Model works. You can read my testimony here:

After hearing public testimony – which also included forceful arguments from HEM labor management committee member Keary DeBeck, an SEIU member in DOJ – our PEBB representatives made a motion to adopt the labor management committee’s principle recommendation: that PEBB suspend the HEM surcharge for 2012 to allow sufficient time to communicate about the program and make other much-needed reforms.

Unfortunately, despite a unanimous vote by the SEIU and other union delegates, the four management delegates on the Board united to defeat this proposal. It is incredibly disappointing that the management delegates would pass up an opportunity to truly reset the discussion around health engagement.

On the positive side, the PEBB delegates did vote to adopt other recommendations made by the joint labor management committee, including the following:

  • Provide at least 45 days to complete the online Health Assessment and e-lessons.
  • Change the surcharge for couples with one non-HEM participant to $20/month rather than the current $35 charge. Currently, the surcharge structure provides no incentive for one partner to participate in HEM if the other partner opts out.
  • Pro-rate HEM surcharges for part-time workers to $10 for individual participation and $20 for participation by both members of a couple. Part-time workers currently pay a pro-rated share of their insurance costs or sign up for a plan with fewer benefits, so their surcharge should also reflect their part-time status.
  • Allow PEBB members to enroll in HEM at any point during the year, so as to encourage mid-year participation.
  • Provide an additional 30-day grace period in 2012 for missing deadlines for doing the Health Assessment and e-lessons. This already occurred in a previous Board vote – the new deadline is March 15.

In addition to these structural changes, PEBB also committed to provide information around the reasoning behind the questions in the health risk assessment, continue to address PEBB member concerns around privacy, and make sure they are communicating about wellness support for PEBB members on an ongoing basis. I want to thank the union members on the labor management committee for moving these and other suggestions forward: Wednesday Martin (DHS-Roseburg), Keary DeBeck (DOJ-Salem), Lois Yoshishige (UofO-Eugene), Sabrina Freewynn (OHA-Portland), Shaun Parkman (OHA-Portland), and Siobhan Martin (Staff).

Our SEIU delegates also raised the issue of Representative Richardson’s (R-District 4) recent public information request of member email addresses. Rich Peppers and Paul McKenna explained the problems this release has caused for member-confidence in PEBB’s data security protocols, and requested that PEBB staff take any steps necessary to prevent this problem from recurring, including development of a legislative bill to exempt PEBB from the provisions of public records law for the next full legislative session. Other Board members expressed support for that approach.

What’s next? The HEM Labor Management committee will continue to meet to evaluate HEM and make recommendations for the 2013 plan year. To help inform their work and that of our PEBB representatives, and discuss other changes in healthcare, we hosted a Healthcare Summit on Saturday March 31 in Salem.

Thank you to the over 6,000 members who signed the petition to suspend the HEM surcharge. Although the outcome of the vote on that issue was not what we wanted, we did win some other important changes suggested by members. We will continue to advocate on the PEB Board and labor management committee for more reforms, and will update you on progress and ways you can help.


Heather Conroy, Executive Director

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