Oregon Governor Stands Firm on Worker Health Care
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The existing arrangement has long been a point of frustration for Oregon Republicans, who say health care costs are becoming too large to sustain and that public-sector benefits should be brought more in line with those in the private sector. Democrats also have struggled to defend the state's generous health insurance policy as they have watched their counterparts in other places — including heavily Democratic New Jersey last month — go along with major reductions in worker benefits.
With Oregon's legislative session now over, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber is focusing his attention on contract talks with public worker unions, and he is making clear that he expects state employees to pay some of the cost of their health insurance.
"I believe that everybody ought to make a contribution to their own health care," Kitzhaber told the editorial board of the Salem Statesman Journal on Wednesday (July 6) . "Just about everybody does, across the country. This was something I was very clear about during my campaign. This is not a surprise."
Health care remains a "major sticking point" in the talks between Kitzhaber and the unions, the Statesman Journal notes, saying the discussions are "lurching toward impasse and a possible strike." Kitzhaber wants employees to pay 5 percent of their monthly health insurance premiums, which, according to the paper, would amount to $43 to $68 a month, depending on the plan and the number of dependents it serves.