University system employees to pay more for health coverage

ATLANTA — The Board of Regents voted Wednesday to require faculty and staff members of the University System of Georgia to pay more for their health insurance and pensions.


Board members also discussed no longer promising health coverage in retirement for new employees as a way to save money.

Most private employers do not provide full retiree coverage, as the system does, according to Associate Vice Chancellor Tom Scheer.

Before the unanimous vote, he told the board that a private consultant’s analysis shows that employee premiums for the most popular plans have not kept pace with their claims. About 25,000 employees participate in the Blue Cross health-maintenance and point-of-service plans.

“The premiums would have to increase by an amount that is unreasonable,” he said.

Scheer recommended an 8.5 percent increase, even though costs to the whole plan have risen only 5.7 percent. Boosting premiums more than costs will make progress toward closing the gap, he said.

Premiums will rise just 2.5 percent in the preferred-provider plan.

The board also raised the copay amount for all HMO services except office visits, and it decided to allow that plan to accept new enrollments, ending a one-year moratorium.

The system has 13,000 retirees older than 65 who are getting full medical coverage from the University System even though they are eligible for Medicare.

Private employers who offer coverage to their retirees typically only supplement Medicare.

Regent Robert Hatcher agreed that the savings would be worthwhile, but he had reservations about current employees and retirees.

“I don’t want to go back on any promise we have already made to anyone,” he said.

Scheer said a proposal is in the works for the board to consider.

The board also increased what workers will contribute to their optional retirement plan in 2013 from 5 percent of their pay to 6 percent.

It agreed to begin making those deductions after any furloughs to account for days not worked.