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Another big deficit projected for state health benefits

Delaware Public Media

State workers could see another hit to their paycheck next year as budget officials project a $130 million gap in bankrolling Delaware’s health benefits package.

Lawmakers helped cover a similar shortfall in June, allocating $21 million, while public employees started paying more for certain prescription drugs and doctor co-pays.

Budget director Ann Visalli says she’s not ruling out another hike to what state workers pay.

“We’ve had increases in the past. Part of our challenge was in the years where we didn’t do an increase we probably should have, but I think it’s the world we live in," said Visalli. "Employees will know that healthcare costs are going up and everybody has to pay their fair share.”

But Joint Finance Committee Chair Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North) says that route needs to be avoided.

“It’s bad enough when you go for a number of years and you can’t give your employees a raise at all. Then, if you decrease their effective net pay by raising the price they have to pay for benefits, it’s sort of a double whammy.”

Earlier this year, the Markell administration rolled out a plan that would’ve also raised employee deductibles to bear the surge in costs, but state lawmakers rejected that proposal.

Lengthier hospital stays, more surgeries and ballooning prescription drug prices are contributing to soaring medical costs – mostly attributed to retirees.

A new task force examining the issue met for the first time Wednesday, aiming to give recommendations to the state by December.

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