Gov. John deJongh Jr. warned the Health Insurance Board of Trustees to take whatever steps necessary to make sure there is no increase in the government’s share of health insurance premiums for government workers.
In a Wednesday press release, the governor shared his July 13 letter to John Abramson, who chairs the territory’s Health Insurance Board of Trustees. “It is our responsibility as leaders to navigate the government through these difficult times and to make the hard decisions that will allow us to keep our commitments to the people of the Virgin Islands,” the governor wrote.
DeJongh said the board is legally mandated to annually assess government insurance programs and to make recommendations on contracts.
In his letter, the governor told Abramson that unlike in past years, the board should not sidestep its responsibilities by sending him several health insurance plans from which to select because the territory does not have a consultant on contract to review and recommend plan designs. He said that in the past, this practice has also led to late submittals to the legislature of the final plan for its review.
“Under present law, the responsibility to make the recommendation rests with the board and in meeting its responsibility the board must acknowledge the financial realities of the territory and the ability of the government to pay for this essential insurance,” deJongh said.
“It is incumbent upon the board to make a plan recommendation that reflects the board members’ years of expertise in going through this process with their consultant, Buck Consulting, and one that reflects the best balance of financial realities and coverage needs,” he wrote.
The governor said his letter makes clear that he expects one plan—the best plan— and that the plan be one that balances the needs of government workers and taxpayers, and is consistent with guidelines set by Office of Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb.
DeJongh said he is aware that healthcare costs have been on the rise for many years, but takes the position that this trend cannot be permitted to continue in the coming fiscal year nor likely for the following one as well.