NEWSDAY: Wednesday May 18, 2011 6:01 PM By Kery Murakami
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said he'll ask county employees later this year to begin paying for a portion of their health care -- or they may face layoffs or go to a less generous health plan.
The move comes four years after county unions agreed to $15 million in health care concessions, including higher co-pays. In return, the county agreed to not ask workers to pay a portion of their health care premiums or to shift from their self-insured health plan to the New York State Health Insurance Plan used by state government workers until 2011.
With that agreement about to run out at the end of the year, and the county facing a $140-million to $179-million two-year budget shortfall, Levy in an interview said he will ask employees to help pay for their health care costs, as do state government workers. Nassau County workers do not contribute to their health care premiums.
Levy described his proposal as still in its infancy, but having county workers pay 10 percent of the cost of their insurance would produce $30 million to $40 million in savings, he said. Overall, Levy said he wants to shave $50 million from health care costs.
"Now that we're getting cut by the state, and we have less sales tax money coming in [due to the poor economy], these things have to be looked at," Levy said.
Cheryl Felice, president of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, the largest union representing county workers, said only that any changes would have to be made through negotiations. She declined to comment further.