Struggling just to get by

An Associated Press story datelined Carson City last week spelled out the concerns of some legislators that changes to state employee health insurance costs and benefits might be onerous to lower-salaried workers.

To support this concern, there was testimony from a tearful Susie Giurlani. She and her husband are both state employees whose pay has been reduced by mandated furloughs since 2009. Because deductibles in the state health insurance plan will be raised from $1,600 to $3,800, she testified the family will have to bear greater expenses for her son's insulin to treat his diabetes. Total out-of-pocket costs will be capped at $7,800 for a family.

"We are not the rich state employees that some people think we are," she told the joint Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance subcommittee.

"I'm punished because I chose to get a job with the state, 30 years ago, believing that I'd have reasonable health coverage," AP quoted her as saying through tears, adding she's "having a harder time in my life than when I was single."

Jim Wells, executive director of the Public Employees' Benefits Program, testified the health insurance changes are needed to cover an $85 million budget shortfall.

Reached at the desk of Sandra Giurlani in the Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation (DETR) on a recent afternoon, answering the phone by identifying herself as Susie, Ms. Giurlani confirmed she had testified and proceeded to explain how much her family has had to cut back in order to survive, forgoing vacations and home repairs. She confirmed her husband is John Giurlani, a Department of Public Safety captain.

On the Nevada Policy Research Institute website called TransparentNevada, her 2009 pay is listed as $70,213.02 and his as $93,689.45.

According to the DETR figures, in 2009 the statewide average wage was $41,464.