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Paying more for their own health care

It’s a revealing measure of Nevada’s fiscal malaise that state workers will finally be asked to share in the sacrifice — and have offered little resistance.

During a special session earlier this year to address the state budget shortfall, lawmakers and the governor bent over backward to avoid killing generous raises previously approved for state workers — raises that far exceed anything most private-sector grunts can expect today.

But state workers could avoid the inevitable for only so long.

While the raises remain intact for now, the Nevada Public Employees Benefits Board decided Thursday to increase premiums and deductibles for the state heath care plan.

The move will offset nearly half of the planned $50 million reduction in taxpayer subsidies to the health insurance plan.

Right now, the state — read: taxpayers — covers anywhere from 95 to 100 percent of health care premiums for active workers, depending on the deductible of the plan chosen. The subsidy for dependents and retirees is somewhat lower, but still an incredible bargain.

To get an idea of how benevolent this plan really is, consider that an active employee who chooses a high deductible pays no monthly premiums — none. Meanwhile, a worker who opts for a low deductible coughs up only $28 a month, while taxpayers cover the other 95 percent.

Board members delayed a vote on the precise premium increases, opting to wait until their next meeting in December. But deductibles are expected to climb from $500 to $725 for individual workers and from $1,000 to $1,425 for families.

To be sure, the added burden is minimal. But the adjustment is at least an acknowledgement that if we are to seriously address Nevada’s current budget crisis, public employee benefits and wages must be part of the equation.

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