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Reforming retirement system - with sick days

via Flickr
New York's retirement system might be getting some chicken noodle soup.

The governor is now considering a sixth tier of health insurance for public employees, reports Rick Karlin at the Times Union.  Theoretically that would only save the state money in the future - as new employees are hired into the tier.  But what if you changed the way state employees pay for health insurance with accrued sick leave?  That might offer some savings now, reports Karlin:

Here's how it works: If a hypothetical state employee who earns $20 an hour retires at age 62 and has 500 hours of unused sick time, he can take the $10,000 that represents and apply it toward his health insurance, averaged out by his estimated future lifespan. Actuarial tables, or longevity predictions, show the average 62-year-old will live another 18 years, or 216 months. That means he could apply $46 -- $10,000 divided by 216 months -- toward his health premium. The regular Empire Plan rate would be $69, or 10 percent of the monthly premium for an individual. Thus, that 62-year-old might only pay about $23 per month after sick time is factored in. For family coverage, the cost would be 25 percent ($378) of a $1,514 premium on the Empire Plan, a popular public sector insurance plan. (Other details could impact those amounts.)

Right now it's a matter of making the idea work on paper - the tables that the calculations are based on haven't been updated since the early 80s.  But unions aren't happy with the idea:

"We believe it may be a violation," said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, a major union for state and local employees. "To make a change like that would require them to come and negotiate with us," he said. The pending reduction comes as the Cuomo administration is attempting to finalize a Tier VI proposal that was one of the key recommendations from a special mandate relief study commission, which issued preliminary findings last week.

Medical malpractice
Health providers and consumers are squaring off over the governor's proposal to cap pain and suffering awards for medical malpractice, reports Cara Matthews at Gannett:

The measure would place a $250,000 cap on damage awards for pain and suffering and create an indemnity fund for neurologically impaired babies, which would save the state an estimated $209 million in the upcoming fiscal year. It was one of dozens of recommendations from the governor's Medicaid Redesign Team, which were submitted as amendments to his budget proposal. Capping damages would "unjustly discriminate against accident victims who suffer the most devastating physical and psychological losses," the state Bar Association said in budget testimony to a legislative budget committee last week. The group believes the changes most likely would be illegal, Stephen Younger, the group's president, said Friday.

Lauren Stanforth at the Times Union has a report on the "simmering debate" about whether payment-in-lieu-of-taxes "subsidies are too sweet."  Tasty:

Albany restaurateur Matt Baumgartner said he was looking at Troy and Saratoga Springs to build another Bombers Burrito Bar. But Schenectady offered the best "package," he said, with an $8,407 PILOT the first year and a grant for building improvements. All cities are competing for business, and "it's like if you're looking for a car. You're looking for the best deal," said Baumgartner, who opened his eatery at 447 State St. in 2009. Four other buildings on State Street are tax-exempt because they are part of Proctors, a nonprofit arts organization. The landmark theater's expansion has transformed the former Carl Co. department store into the GE Theatre, and what recently was a Key Bank branch is now a catering hall.

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