Health care is safe

Oregon public employees may face pay cuts, but their costly health care will stay.

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State employees have begun protesting the consequences of the budget shortfall – layoffs, pay freezes and unpaid holidays – but one thing they won’t have to worry about is health care benefits.

Oregon remains one of the most generous states in the country when it comes to health care. Full-time state employees pay no deductible for medical care and nothing in monthly insurance premiums for themselves or their spouses and children.

The average cost per employee? About $12,800 a year, or roughly half a billion dollars out of a projected $15 billion two-year general fund and lottery budget….

That’s not likely to change even as state lawmakers hash out a state budget for the next two years that will trim schools, lay off teachers and cut social services to the poor. Gov. Ted Kulongoski is seeking pay concessions from about 50,000 state employees as they negotiate new contracts, but he won’t touch health care.

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