SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Picket signs and megaphones could be seen in downtown Springfield Wednesday -- all aimed at healthcare. The Missouri State Workers Union held a rally ahead of a board meeting that could determine their fate.
The Missouri Consolidated Health Care Board of Trustees has a large task on its hands: determining how to make up for a budget shortfall. State workers are afraid that will mean higher costs on paychecks that are already dismal.
When it comes to health care benefits, the Missouri State Workers Union wants to be clear: "This is not only a crisis in the public sector, this is a crisis in the private sector," said Missouri State Workers Union Organizing Director Richard von Glahn.
A decision being made this week could mean trouble for state employees.
"There was $7.8 million cut [in the budget], " said von Glahn.
The Board of Trustees that runs Missouri Consolidated Health Care meets Thursday. State Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sits on that board.
"We have done a lot of measures in the last years to be creative in our plan designs so we don't have to increase premiums on employees," said Burlison.
He will help decide how to make up the shortfall.
"They have a reserve fund that we think has more than enough money. They can simply absorb the cuts," said von Glahn.
They can also go to plan B.
"They could increase our premiums or they could increase our out of pocket expenses, copays, or deductibles," said von Glahn.
At a protest held in downtown Springfield, public workers stated their case. According to a Missouri Senate Committee, Missouri workers rank last in pay compared to the rest of the nation.
"You have to really love your job to do this job. We are definitely not paid what most of us would consider to be worth," said Childrens Divison worker Kim Cloyd.
"If people are wanting to have great pay and great benefits," said Burlison, "in my opinion, they need to look in the private sector."
Workers at the rally say an increase in health insurance costs will cripple them even further.
"If we can't take care of ourselves and our families, how can we take care of yours?" asked von Glahn.
KY3 spoke with onlookers at the rally, and many weren't happy about what they saw. The consensus is that taxpayers are already providing paychecks for state workers, and it's an insult for them to want cheaper healthcare when so many Americans are also struggling in the private sector.