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Sept. 24, 2009

Weitzman commends DiNapoli’s audit of State Health Insurance Program

Potential savings for Long Island could reach $100 M, Weitzman says

Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman today commended State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and his staff on their recent audit of State health insurance over charges. The audit was initiated in part at the request of Weitzman, who has been focusing on the insurance plan’s premium setting process and management of surplus reserves since 2008. Last year, NYSHIP agreed to hold its rate increase to less than 2% as a result of a report released by Weitzman and County Executive Thomas Suozzi showing that the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) was over-collecting premiums from local governments and had accumulated an excessive $540 million on top of statutory reserves. Weitzman and Suozzi have continued to work with the State to bring down the 2010 premium rate, and obtained a commitment that it would be no more than a 3.5% increase, which Governor Paterson announced yesterday.

The State Comptroller’s audit confirmed that the Department of Civil Service, which administers NYSHIP, has over-accumulated as much as $600 million in health care premiums that could be used to bring down premium rates, providing savings for taxpayers throughout New York State, but especially on Long Island where almost every school and local government participates in NYSHIP.

"“Potential savings for local governments, including school districts, on Long Island could easily reach more than $100 million,” Weitzman said. “That is why County Executive Tom Suozzi and I will continue to work with NYSHIP to ensure that excess premiums are returned to taxpayers by keeping rate increases at historic lows.”

Following the County’s report last fall, the State agreed with the findings and applied some of the excessive premium to keep the 2009 rate increase low. This effort saved Nassau County taxpayers approximately $11 million in health insurance premiums for 2009 and approximately $116 million for local schools and governments in Nassau County. Comptroller Weitzman and the County Executive continue to work to recoup a portion of the excess NYSHIP premiums charged in prior years – an amount equal to $540 million state-wide and $21 million for Nassau County, that could made as a one month premium holiday for all NYSHIP participants.

"NYSHIP needs to operate with more transparency, allowing state and participating agencies to access data,” said Weitzman. “This audit will certainly help move us in that direction.”

Recently Comptroller Weitzman received an appointment to the New York State Health Insurance Program Participating Agency Advisory Council (PAAC). Nassau County is the largest local government participating agency in NYSHIP and prior to his appointment, no one from Nassau County had served on the board.