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The New Jersey Council of County Colleges said this week it is “extremely concerned” about the budgetary impact of the 2023 health insurance rate increases recently approved by the School Employees Health Benefits Plan (SEHBP) Commission.

The commission voted 5-1 on Sept. 19 to approve the roughly 15% increase for the 2023 calendar year for school workers enrolled in the state’s health benefits program.

“The increase will cost community colleges $14 million this year alone, said Aaron Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC). “That will consume almost all of the operating aid increases colleges have received in the past 15 years.”

County colleges are the largest, and most racially and economically diverse, sector of higher education in New Jersey, with over 200,000 students, he said. Graduates of community colleges overwhelmingly stay in New Jersey and are critical to the state’s workforce and economy.

Community colleges also work closely with industry partners to provide a skilled workforce, and to provide good jobs for New Jerseyans. For example, community colleges train more New Jersey nurses than every other sector of higher education combined.

“This is work that builds the middle class,” Fichtner said.

The SEHBP commission’s action to increase premiums came a week after a separate commission voted to approve double-digit rate hikes on health insurance plans that cover more than 800,000 state and local government workers in the State Health Benefits Plan (SHBP).

The NJCCC supports legislation proposed for introduction that would address the operation of the SEHBP commission. These are bills S-3033, sponsored by Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29); A-4552, sponsored by Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29); and S-2994, sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner (D-15).  Another bill proposed for introduction, S-2995, also sponsored by Senator Turner, would require that the state use federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund grants to reduce increases in the 2023 premium rates for the SEHBP and SHBP.

“The Council looks forward to working with our New Jersey legislators to mitigate the impact of this increase on community colleges and their students, and on finding a sustainable solution,” Fichtner said.