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Iowa lawmakers ponder paying for own health plans

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 11:18 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — After losing his effort to get state workers to pay a portion of their health care costs, Gov. Terry Branstad called on lawmakers Monday to start contributing to their own plans.

Branstad said legislators should pay 20 percent of their health care premiums. Currently, lawmakers, like state union workers, don’t have to pay a health care contribution.

“I also think the Legislature has an opportunity to be leaders instead of followers on this,” said Branstad, noting that federal employees pay a portion of their health care costs and arguing that coupling contributions with wellness programs will improve health outcomes in Iowa.

Branstad voluntarily contributes to his plan and sought similar contributions from state union workers. An arbitrator on Thursday awarded a contract to state workers that didn’t include across the board raises, but maintains the current health benefits.

It wasn’t clear how the legislature would respond to Branstad’s call.

Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, of Hiawatha, said he expected legislators could work out an agreement to require Iowa lawmakers to pay a portion of their health care costs. Paulsen said an arrangement could be worked out by a bipartisan group of lawmakers that meets after the legislative session concludes. He didn’t exactly what the contribution could be.

“I think contributing to our health care is the right thing to do,” Paulsen said. “I expect we’ll figure something out.”

But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, of Council Bluffs, said it was too early to say what the Senate would commit to, though he said the Senate would discuss the issue with the House.

“For a guy making $200,000 a year like Gov. Branstad it’s kind of easy for him to suggest legislators making $25,000 a year should take a 10 percent across the board cut,” Gronstal said. “We’ll have a conversation with Paulsen about it.”