S.C. Employees Ask Court to Rule on Benefits Changes

August 17, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The leaders of groups representing teachers and state employees asked the state Supreme Court to take up its lawsuit challenging benefit changes.

The Insurance Journal reports the lawsuit challenges the Budget and Control Board’s decision last week to raise health insurance premiums for public workers despite lawmakers agreeing to foot the bill in the state budget. The State Budget and Control Board voted 3-2 last week with Loftis in the majority to raise state workers’ insurance premiums by 4.6%, an average of $7.24 a month. The change is expected to save the state $5.8 million next year.   

The vote reversed the state Legislature, which last month voted not to raise state workers’ out-of-pocket insurance costs.  

It is the second lawsuit challenging the decision, according to the news report. A University of South Carolina professor filed a class-action lawsuit Monday in Richland County court. Both suits allege the budget board does not have the authority to overrule the Legislature, raising health insurance rates when legislators decided not to.  

The latest suit represents two teachers who are officials in the South Carolina Education Association, as well as the executive director of the State Employees Association. Their attorney asked the state’s high court to hear the case directly, rather than start in the lower courts, to provide the best opportunity for the case to be resolved before the hikes are set to take effect on January 1, 2013.  

In a statement, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis said he stands by his vote to increase state workers’ health insurance costs, but is open to changing his mind if someone can prove the vote was illegal.