AL Governor May Call Special Session to Battle Health-Care Costs

July 1, 2004 ( - Alabama Governor Bob Riley wants the state to take steps to reduce the cost of state employee health benefits.

Riley has alerted high-ranking state lawmakers that he might call a special session in September to focus on cutting the state’s health insurance costs. Until you get your hands around the really basic problem, and that’s this exponential increase in health care, it’s going to limit our ability to address any other problem,” Riley told Kiwanis Club members at a Montgomery meeting, according to Birmingham News coverage.

The need for the special session comes as state spending on health insurance for almost 200,000 active and retired employees of public schools and state agencies doubled between 1998 and 2003, from $363.3 million to $726.7 million. Next year, the cost is budgeted to reach $996.4 million, an increase of $178.4 million from this year’s expected cost.

In April Riley appointed a 12-person task force to suggest ways to slow skyrocketing insurance costs. Even though the group hasn’t met yet, Riley is anticipating recommendations from the group on ways to curb health-care spending in the next few weeks. The governor said that if the task force reaches a consensus on cost-cutting measures, those would become the foundation of a special session.