The Personnel Cabinet has a unique role in Kentucky: serving the people who serve the people. In contrast to externally focused cabinets, our clients are the employees and prospective employees who work diligently to better the Commonwealth through public service. We connect people to careers with purpose in public safety, child protection, and environmental services, to name a few.
What this cabinet has accomplished in the last four years for Commonwealth employees, and the Commonwealth as a whole, cannot be understated. I watch with pride as the programs we implemented help recruit, train, inspire, and grow the workforce of Kentucky, while in turn saving the state millions annually through higher productivity and increased employee satisfaction.
Growing and fostering a work culture of inclusivity and diversity is a large focus of what we do. Our cabinet hosted the Kentucky Conference on Leadership and Diversity in September that drew in nearly 1,000 people.
We are so proud to have seen the conference triple in size over the past four years, and more importantly, to see so many professionals in the public and private sectors walk away inspired and energized through leadership training and a deeper understanding of the value of diversity in the workforce.
You can’t talk about this cabinet without referencing the largest self-funded health insurance plan in the state, covering nearly 7% of Kentucky’s population. We administer the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan, a $1.9 billion health insurance program that covers 290,000 public employees, schoolteachers, retirees, and dependents.
Last year alone we saved the Commonwealth (and the Plan) nearly $100 million through various cost-saving measures without compromising the benefits we offer. We have done this all while keeping insurance premiums virtually untouched over the last three years, with just under a 1% increase, something unthinkable in the private sector.
Through our health plan, employees now have access to physicians, therapists, and psychiatry 24 hours a day at no cost through telemedicine. We’ve enabled employees in the most rural parts of the state to have access to doctors where services may be difficult to find. The telehealth services also provide therapy when a family needs it most, all without impacting their pocketbook.
Convenience is not just a motivator for our society; we have proven it has serious returns on investment when thinking about healthcare. Employees who take advantage of the free consultations through LiveHealth Online have fewer sick days, far lower hospital and doctor visits (which cost millions every year) and overall better well-being. Providing medical, psychological, and psychiatric treatments, at no cost, has achieved $7 million in savings so far.
Additionally, we were able to save plan members $5.5 million by implementing a diabetes value benefit that provides free to low-cost prescription benefits for all health plan members with diabetes. We can confidently say we are creating a healthier Kentucky, and saving the state money, while helping our hard-working employees not feel the strain of the wallet when it comes to their wellness.
At times illnesses or accidents are unavoidable. However, our employees cannot afford to lose their benefits and salary when hit with life’s challenges. The Personnel Cabinet implemented the Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) through the Return to Work Program to assist current state employees in staying at work after an injury or illness. This program allows families to find stability in their jobs and focus on healing, while the state maintains consistent work production and avoids job turnover.
To decrease job turnover and improve employee retention, we adjusted the state salary schedule for the first time since 2007, raising the midpoint salary to allow agencies the ability to increase employee salaries to be more competitive with the private sector when their budgets support an increase.
Additionally, in our effort to promote the commonwealth as America's most military-friendly state, we supported amendments to the veterans preference statute to expand interview preference to spouses of veterans. We also amended the minimum qualifications required for over 100 job classifications so that an individual’s military experience can substitute for the educational requirements of the particular job. To our veterans and their spouses: the Commonwealth is hiring!
Other successes over the last four years include implementing a statewide talent management suite that gives employees access to over 1,400 professionally curated training courses, as well as the ability to easily search and apply for jobs on careers.ky.gov. With employees and Kentucky children in mind, we also increased the employee reimbursement to help cover the costs of adoption expenses and ease the financial burden on families who choose to adopt.
The Personnel Cabinet of four years ago is not the place it is today, and both Kentucky’s public employees and the commonwealth are better for it!
Tom Stephens is the Secretary of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet.