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VOL. 39 | NO. 19 | Friday, May 8, 2015

148 former lawmakers covered by state insurance plan

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee records show that there are more former lawmakers enrolled in the health insurance plan for state employees than current lawmakers.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1EGB2Ye) cited records from the state office of benefits administration in reporting that 148 former lawmakers are enrolled compared to 116 current lawmakers.

The newspaper reports that state law allows those elected to the state Legislature to remain on the taxpayer-subsidized state employee health plan for life, though they are required to pay premiums.

Some of those still enrolled include public officials like U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

Former state Sen. Edgar Gillock of Memphis also remains enrolled. Gillock left the Legislature in 1982 after being convicted of taking $130,000 for his influence in awarding government contracts.

State officials did not respond to questions from the newspaper about how much lawmakers have paid compared to taxpayers. Officials told The Tennessean last week that the state has spent nearly $5.8 million since 2008 to provide coverage while lawmakers paid a total of $1.4 million.

The issue of lawmaker health benefits came up during debate on Gov. Bill Haslam's failed effort to expand health insurance coverage under provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville said on Wednesday that health coverage should be offered for current lawmakers.

"I do think the basic concept that we are state employees and therefore we get insurance while we're here, there's nothing wrong with that. That's an apples-and-oranges comparison with Insure Tennessee."

Ramsey said he wasn't sure about coverage for former lawmakers and how it compares to benefits for state employees and legislators in other states.

"That's something I'll have to check into and get back with you," he said.

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