Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) has pre-filed House Bill 19-37 in an effort to help control the rising costs of insurance premiums. The measure also seeks to transfer the administration of the Government’s Group Health and Life Insurance Programs to the Department of Finance.
“Government employees and retirees are struggling to keep up with rising health and life insurance costs,” said Demapan. “Increasing the number of participants in the government’s group insurance plans will minimize increases in premiums.”
To help control premium costs, Demapan’s bill would require all government employers—any political subdivision, branch, instrumentality, public corporation, or autonomous board or agency of the government—to participate in the government’s group health and life insurance plans.
According to the bill, the government’s Group Health and Life Insurance Programs shall be the only health and life insurance benefits offered to the employees by the government. If enacted into law, employees of the government shall have 60 days to enroll into the government’s Group Health and Life Insurance Program.
“This subsection does not require employees to participate in the government’s Group Health and Life Insurance Programs,” added Demapan. “Employee participation is optional subject to section 102 (b).”
Section 102(b) of Demapan’s bill states, “Public funds may not be expended to pay for health or life insurance benefits that are not provided as part of the government’s Group Health and Life Insurance Programs, nor may public resources be used to withhold or transmit premiums for insurance policies or benefits that are not provided as part of the government’s Group Health and Life Insurance Programs. This restriction does not apply to payroll deductions for Medicare.”
As for the transfer of functions, Demapan noted that transition is timely for the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund in light of the establishment of the Settlement Fund. At this point, Demapan believes that the Department of Finance is a more appropriate authority to administer the government’s Group Health and Life Insurance program more efficiently.
Under this Act, the Secretary of Finance may contract with an insuring entity or insuring entities to provide the government’s Group Health and Life Insurance Programs. The Secretary of Finance will also be tasked with establishing a contract procurement process for any contract entered into after the date of this Act.
“The procurement and contracting process is very important so that all insurance providers have the opportunity to compete and the government too would have the opportunity to select the best proposal offered,” said Demapan. “The bottom line here is that we need to open up access to insurance coverage, but it must be affordable.”