Murphy questions Sweeney’s math on health benefit savings

Last week, as Senate President Steve Sweeney continued to push his Path to Progress economic agenda, he proposed switching teachers to the less expensive health plans that currently cover state government workers.

But Gov. Phil Murphy suggested this week that the savings Sweeney is touting may not add up.

Sweeney has said switching the 62,000 teachers covered by the School Employees Health Benefits Plan to the less costly State Health Benefits Plan could yield an estimated $300 million a year in savings. That would benefit both taxpayers and teachers, who would see their premiums shrink.

“I think that at a moment in time was true, but based on the savings and the collective bargaining processes that we have gone through and are continuing to go through, I actually don’t, I say respectfully, I don’t think that math actually does work,” Murphy said at a press conference Thursday.

But Sweeney disagreed with the governor’s assessment.

“We think we took a very conservative approach,” he said on Friday, “and if my numbers are wrong, then just produce yours, and show me and prove to me I’m wrong,”

Sweeney pointed to Murphy’s recent contract agreement with the state workers union CWA New Jersey, which the governor’s office said would save the state $70 million by making changes to union members’ health care plans.

“There’s a lot of savings to be done,” he added.