Workers press for insurance relief

By FRED LUCAS State Journal Staff Writer Published:

Robert Heitzman, a corrections officer at the Kentucky State Reformatory, said the state's prison guards might be close to leaving their jobs if state health insurance rates don't decline.

"I can't afford to insure my wife," Heitzman said. "Corrections officers are going to walk out because they can't get insurance. Who's going to keep convicted felons behind bars? I don't know how much longer I can afford to work for the state."

Prison guards are among the hardest hit by the high insurance rates paid by state workers, many of whom pay $600 a month or more. Some prison guards have complained of paying about $1,200 a month.

Even in the midst of a $500 million budget shortfall, legislators are responding to calls from state employee groups to address the rising cost. It could be an issue in the 2003 General Assembly, as members of the Joint Subcommittee on the State Health Insurance Program agreed Monday to continue meeting into next year. The subcommittee met to discuss the issue and focused heavily on whether a self-insured program would work in Kentucky.

The idea of a self-insured system has been pushed by many legislators, state employee unions and others over the last several months as the best solution to the problem.

For more on this story, see today's State Journal.

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