By Vermont Governor Phil Scott and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu
Last month, we introduced a bi-state family and medical leave insurance program – the Twin State Paid Family Leave plan – that would build a public-private partnership to provide access to paid family and medical leave for all residents of the Granite and Green Mountain states.
As the Governors of two New England states, where affordability and quality-of-life are top priorities, we strive to be innovative and fulfill the expectations of the people who have elected us.
For these reasons we worked together on a program that balances the value of paid family leave, with our citizens’ ability to pay.
Too many struggle to meet the demands of the workplace as well as the needs of their families, their health and their families’ health. And we believe the coverage option we’re proposing delivers important work-life balance for workers in our states.
Our proposal uses private insurers to provide universal access to competitively-priced paid family and medical leave insurance.
We do this by building a large, diverse pool with state employees from both states. Each state would cover the full costs of providing Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) coverage to its state employees.
Combined, this represents 18,500 Vermont and New Hampshire state employees to anchor this public-private insurance group, diversify risk and bring down costs. And, we’ve designed our plan to encourage employers to opt-in and offer full coverage, with more favorable rates for those who cover all employees.
We believe this rate structure – coupled with tight labor markets in both our states in which some employers are lifting wages and other employment benefits to compete for workers – will yield significant participation among employers.
But, participation in the Twin State Paid Family Leave plan is not limited to employers. All individuals on both sides of the Connecticut River will have the option to purchase FMLI under our plan, as they would any other insurance product, at a competitive price.
In this way, our plan provides universal access to all employers and citizens of our two states. By working together and with a private insurer we will be able to start this program more quickly, effectively and reliably than if each of us had to start from scratch.
And our proposal ensures we are not placing the full burden of startup costs, ongoing administration, and the risk of underfunding and insolvency on our taxpayers.
With this approach, we can lay the foundation for a sustainable program – one that could attract other states to participate and be a model for the future.
Vermont and New Hampshire have shown an ability to be innovative in our state policy often due to our relatively small populations.
On health care, we each have among the lowest uninsured rates in the country. Both New Hampshire and Vermont offer among the best education systems in the country. And we are frequently ranked among the best states to live.
And we work together in order to do these things, from interstate school districts to the countless health care providers who serve Vermont and New Hampshire.
However, our small size can be a challenge when it comes to the affordability of programs designed to add value to our already-high quality of life.
By working together, through this Twin State Paid Family Leave model, we can and will – with support of our state legislatures – be able to deliver paid family leave affordably.