A draft law on public workers' pensions and health benefits will no longer place restrictions on whether employees may seek out-of-state healthcare, Senate Democrats announced this morning.
Senate President Steve Sweeney had previously pushed for language that would in some cases stop public employees receiving insurance coverage when they sought care at an out-of-state hospital, if health insurance boards determined an in-state hospital could provide equivalent care.
But Sweeney just issued a statement saying that part of the controversial and sweeping benefits bill would be repealed.
Instead, a separate piece of legislation will be moved at today's Senate sessions, making a distinction between some public-worker health plans which will cover predominantly in-state care and another plan that would allow patients to go out of state.
"This legislation will ensure that we are able to live up to our goals of keeping more of our health-care dollars in New Jersey while not eliminating the choices that are so important to employees and their families," said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, in a statement. "This is the right thing to do."
"I have always said this is about balancing the needs of our taxpayers while protecting public employees," said Aseembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, Passaic, in the same statement. "This change preserves our cost-savings goal while making sure our workers still have access to the best care to meet their needs."
The announcement means the end of a threatened split between Christie and certain Republicans on the issue.
Assemblyman Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic, said this weekend he was considering whether or not to vote for the bill because of his concerns about that clause.
If Polistina had decided to vote against the proposal, Christie, Sweeney and Oliver would have lost one of the
33 Republican votes they are counting on to help pass the measure.
However, while Polistina sees his major objection lifted, Democratic lawmakers' support for the bill remains uncertain.
Many, including Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, say they want to see public workers' healthcare remain part of collective-bargaining agreements.
The bill would keep healthcare off the collective bargaining table for public worker unions until 2014.