Loan benefits

Senate panel asked to consider adding financial planning and tax advice to state employee benefits program

Florida’s top economist said Thursday that the legislature may consider adding a few hours of tax and financial advice to the list of benefits the state of Florida offers its employees.

Amy baker, the coordinator of the Florida Bureau of Economic and Demographic Research, said at present, fewer than 5,000 people – mostly working workers – were enrolled in high-deductible plans, or about 2, 7% of the state workforce.

If the legislator wants to increase participation in high-deductible plans, which can be combined with health savings accounts that allow payment of certain medical expenses with tax-free funds, it should consider providing advice to employees. financial and fiscal.

Baker said the legislature could also consider contributing more to health savings accounts run by lower paid employees and creating a loan program in case employees don’t have enough in their HSA accounts to pay. health-related expenses.

Senator Jeff brandes applauded the idea and said employees should be given counseling when they start working in state government.

Brandes has said lawmakers have a “duty” to keep employees fully informed – and he said he will work with Senate Budget Speakers to make some suggestions come true in the session that begins in January.

The Republican of St. Petersburg used his new post as chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability to survey state government spending on everything from cars to health insurance for employees of the State.

He wants the legislature to take action in the next session to encourage more government employees to take advantage of high-deductible health plans. The plans save employees on monthly premiums, but they also require employees to pay out-of-pocket for their own health care until they reach the annual deductible, which can reach nearly $ 3,000 per year. family coverage.

The argument for such plans is that they prompt state officials to make more informed decisions about their health care coverage, which can lead to lower costs for the state government.

But financial and tax advice will also help employees better plan for their future, Brandes said. He pointed out that employees who are enrolled in the state’s defined contribution pension plan – which resembles the 401 (k) plans offered by private companies – are not contributing enough to meet their retirement goals.

“If we’re going to provide these benefits, we should at least advise them on how to maximize these benefits that we provide,” Brandes said.

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