State Workers' Slashed Benefits May Be Restored

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A committee that oversees the health insurance plan for Nevada's state employees wants to restore some of the benefits that were cut when the system was in financial trouble.

The state Public Employees' Benefits Committee on Thursday adopted a proposed budget for the next two years of $609.2 million. It suggested that about $19 million be added to restore such things as lower deductibles and better vision and dental coverage.

About 51,000 state workers and their dependents, retirees and non-state workers are in the system, which had to make cuts 18 months ago.

Board member Jacque Ewing-Taylor said the understanding was that the benefits would be restored when the plan was "fiscally sound."

Jim Wells, accounting officer for the insurance system, said the system expects to have a reserve of about $51 million at the end of fiscal year. That's due in part to a lower amount of big medical claims in fiscal 2004.

In light of that, Ewing-Taylor said, "We would be remiss if we did not consider restoration of some of the benefits we took away." She recommended and the board agreed to include an extra 5 percent in the budget to the Legislature to cover the cost of restoring some of the benefits.

Since the cut in benefits, Ewing-Taylor, who works at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the state and universities have had troubles recruiting and retaining employees.