Las Vegas, NV – Earlier this week, Nevada Senate Republican, and doctor, Joe Hardy proposed a constitutional amendment that could result in a doubling, and in most cases tripling, of the health insurance premiums of Nevada’s minimum wage workers. SJR 6, filed on Wednesday, would see the state’s minimum wage workers potentially pay several times the currently-allowable rate for health benefits from their employers.
Last year, news broke that many large corporations were skirting Nevada law by underpaying the minimum wage but offering only “junk insurance” that isn’t even considered legal under federal law because it provides next to no coverage for illness or injury. Essentially: large corporations have been cheating Nevada workers out of the full minimum wage without offering any semblance of adequate health insurance. Now, Senate Republicans are apparently trying to bail them out with a constitutional amendment.
Under Joe Hardy’s legislation, Nevada Senate Republicans would tie premium levels to 10% of federal poverty levels instead of a worker’s actual earned income. For a family of four, the federal poverty-level income is $23,850, so that a minimum wage-earning family could see its health insurance premiums increase from around $1,000 annually to more than $2,300 a year. And any minimum wage earner could be charged that increased figure, regardless if he or she made $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 per year. Some Nevada workers, therefore, would be paying 20%, 30%, or even 50 % of their wages in premiums, all so employers could cut their wages by a dollar per hour.
“This bill by Michael Roberson’s Senate Republicans is nothing more than a bailout for big corporations that have already cheated thousands of Nevada workers out of fair pay,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson. “Nevada’s working families cannot afford to see Joe Hardy, Michael Roberson, and legislative Republicans double or triple their health insurance premiums, all so corporations can continue cheating their workers. On behalf of the working families Senate Republicans are trying to force to pay more so big corporations can pay them less, Nevada Democrats demand Michael Roberson, Joe Hardy, and every other Republican in the legislature abandon this unfair proposal that does nothing but further burden the people working hardest for the least amount of money in Nevada.”
Nevada’s minimum wage, currently, is $8.25 per hour. Employers can pay down to $7.25 per hour if they offer comprehensive health insurance benefits to their workers at a certain capped premium cost.
As it stands now, minimum wage workers paid less than $8.25 cannot be charged more than 10% of their wages for health benefits, for themselves and all their dependent children. A minimum wage worker making $7.25 an hour and working 25 hours a week makes $9,425 annually, meaning that his or her annual premiums for their entire family are capped by the state constitution at $942.50. Employers unwilling to arrange for comprehensive health insurance under the cap can simply pay employees the full $8.25 minimum wage.
Under Joe Hardy’s legislation, Nevada Senate Republicans would tie premium levels to 10% of federal poverty levels instead of a worker’s actual earned income. For a family of four, the federal poverty-level income is $23,850, so in the example above the employee’s family’s premiums would increase from $942.50 to $2,385, all so the employer can save a dollar an hour in wages. Hardy’s proposal tries to mask its effect by tying premium caps to ten percent of employee wages or ten percent of the federal poverty level for families of four, “whichever is higher,” but a minimum wage earners income in Nevada will always be less than $23,850, so employers and insurers will always be allowed to use that figure as the basis for a grossly-expanded cost cap.