Senate and House lawmakers have been unable to agree on a compromise health plan for state employees, teachers and retirees. Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Henderson County Republican, said he is hopeful that something can be worked out next week.
There wasn’t enough time to reach a compromise and send it to the governor before a 3 p.m. today deadline, he said. Most members of the General Assembly are heading out of town for the Easter weekend this afternoon. The deadline related to the beginning of the open enrollment period for the health plan.
“I will say I’m disappointed we didn’t come to an agreement,” Apodaca said after today’s Senate session ended without considering the issue.
Apodaca said the Senate caucus wasn’t comfortable with the compromise that had been worked out by House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Mecklenburg Republican, that would allow those signing up for the lowest tier of coverage not to have to pay premiums.
On Wednesday, House members rushed the compromise through in hopes getting it to the governor by the end of this week, so that the workers would know what kind of benefits the different health plans would include. Apodaca said it’s possible there will have to be a second enrollment period, and there would be some additional cost involved in that.
Last week, Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed a bill that would have required workers signing up for that coverage plan to pay premiums for the first time.
The state plan covers 663,000 members, including 160,000 who are retired. General Assembly Republicans wanted active workers to pick up the premium for one of the plans as a means of closing a $515 million shortfall.
UPDATE: For a while this afternoon it looked like the House might have put in motion a deal in time for the 3 p.m. deadline, but it didn't happen. GOP and Democratic lawmakers recessed and retreated to their separate caucuses about 2 p.m. Tillis told reporters there was a possibility that Perdue might release House Democrats to override her veto. That would meet the deadline, and then House and Senate conference committee members would have to return next week to work out their disagreement on the no-premium issue. But when the House went back into session just before 3 p.m., Tillis announced there would not be an agreement today. "High drama," he called it.