Topeka Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Shallenburger on Wednesday criticized Democratic opponent Kathleen Sebelius and Gov. Bill Graves' administration for an increase in health insurance premiums for state employees.
Sebelius' campaign said Shallenburger's comments were off the mark because as the state insurance commissioner, Sebelius was the only member of the Kansas State Employees Health Care Commission who voted against the increased premiums.
Earlier this month, the commission, citing increased health costs, approved increases ranging from 12 percent to 46 percent on premiums paid by state employees and state retirees. The increases become effective in January.
"She was the only member of the commission that voted no to passing that cost to the employees," said Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran-Basso. "She voted on what was before the commission. She stood up repeatedly for state employees, and he cannot lump Kathleen Sebelius into this equation."
But Shallenburger said Sebelius' no vote wasn't enough.
"We need to think outside the box on health insurance, especially for state employees," he said.
Asked what could be done about the increases, Shallenburger said, "Get a group together and start worrying about it." And he added, "The secretary of administration and the insurance commissioner, they haven't done a good job thinking outside the box."
Secretary of Administration Joyce Glasscock said she was unhappy with the increases, too, but that they were necessary and were similar to state employee premium increases elsewhere.
"It's unfortunate, but this is trending about the norm," she said.
The increases will affect about 35,000 state employees Â including those at Kansas University Â as well as 7,000 retirees and their dependents.
A state employee with the most common coverage Â called Kansas Choice Â and three dependents will see monthly premiums increase about $90, or 27.6 percent, according to state officials.