Union members, who face paying up to 35 percent of their premiums in ramped-up contributions over the next four years, argue politicians who pushed benefits reform must follow through on lowering plan costs and addressing underlying causes of price increases.

“With under two weeks left, it’s likely we’d only gather the existing plans, plus possibly one more,” said Wendell Steinhauer, a member representing the New Jersey Education Association on the panel specifically on school employee benefits.

“This isn’t about real affordable health care,” said Hetty Rosenstein, state director for the Communications Workers of America, who joined other union members on the state employee benefits panel.

She questioned why state officials had not committed to block prescription purchasing, a move she said she believed would save “tens of millions of dollars.”

“If we really wanted to, we could save that much right away,” she said.

Key staff designing the new tiers of health insurance say discussions on deeper cost-savings have been “in a rush,” and put off until next year.

On both panels, members tried but failed to vote through negotiated proposals. Summer storms then intervened, halting progress, many members said.

The panel reviewing insurance plans for state employees has already missed its target deadline to reach an agreement by the summer, said Jeff Keefe, its co-chairman.

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