Bill would require RI lawmakers to pay health insurance

A proposal at the State House would require lawmakers to pay 20 percent toward their health insurance.

Currently, state senators and representatives receive the same health coverage as full-time state employees, but aren't required to pay for it.

State Sen. Paul Fogarty, D-Burrillville, wants to change that.

"It's trying to put us in line with what state employees are paying and I just felt back then that it was fair for us to pay. We're cutting back on the state workers, why are we getting this for free?" he said.

Fogarty introduced a bill that would require each legislator to pay 20 percent of the cost of their plan. The cost for an individual plan would be $1,539 and $4,314 for a family plan.

Right now, every lawmaker is voluntarily paying something or refusing to take the insurance all together.

"You can compensate people different ways. You can do it through health insurance, through salary, what have you. My point is that it's symbolic. You can't give people health insurance as compensation for providing a service but tell them there's no co-shares involved when you tell everybody else they should be doing it," said House Minority Leader Brian Newberry.

The bill is not something House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello considers a high priority, but it is something that would be politically popular.

Fogarty says there was a little resistance at first, but that everyone has been pretty much receptive to paying a part of it.

Because the current law is in the state constitution, it would have to be approved by voters statewide or by constitutional convention.