Georgia state employees to pay 9.5 percent more for health insurance

Thursday, Aug 23, 2012 4:47 PM
Last updated 10:31 PM
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ATLANTA — State workers and teachers will pay an average of 9.5 percent more for their health insurance plan in January after the Community Health Board voted unanimously Thursday on plan revisions.

Of the increases, 2 percent are to cover changes required by the federal health reform law, including full coverage of some women’s health care and contraceptives that the state now only pays for partly.

Even after raising premiums in the employee health plan, the board still expects to wind up with a $7.9 million deficit at the end of next year. But department officials note that the plans costs have grown slower in the last five years than private insurance plans.

“We’re managing costs,” said Vince Harris, the department’s chief financial officer.

The revision to the health plan that covers roughly 700,000 workers, retirees and their families, was only part of what the board approved. It also authorized cutting 3 percent from its budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and all of the next, and it agreed to whittle an additional 2 percent from its Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs next year, all at the request of Gov. Nathan Deal in response to weak tax collections.

“It’s not a secret to any of us that this is going to be a difficult budget year,” said Community Health Commissioner David Cook.

The bulk of the budget for the Department of Community Health is for the State Health Benefit Plan and for Medicaid.

Medicaid, a health program for the poor, covers nearly one of every five Georgians. What the state spends is matched with federal funds, meaning a cut from the state eliminates about the same amount from Washington, effectively doubling the impact on the program.

While the board approved cuts to Medicaid, it isn’t sure how it’s going to achieve them.

“We’ll have at least $62 million in savings,” Cook said. “We plan on meeting those budget targets.”

Federal law blocks the state from limiting who is eligible. The state could stop covering some treatments, like dental care, but it already provides fewer optional coverages than many other states.

Another option is to devise ways to shift Medicaid patients to less-costly providers – such as clinics rather than emergency rooms – but Cook said those strategies take funding to get started and years to begin producing savings.

The last option, trimming what it pays doctors and hospitals, is not being considered, he said.

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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 08/23/12 - 05:14 pm
7
0
Oops

And I thought Obamacare was going to lower costs.

dichotomy
34415
Points
dichotomy 08/23/12 - 05:29 pm
12
0
Just kidding.

"Of the increases, 2 percent are to cover changes required by the federal health reform law, including full coverage of some women’s health care and contraceptives that the state now only pays for partly."

Remember when the Democrats said Obamacare would make health care more affordable? They were just kidding. They meant to say it would make health care more expensive for most of you and more affordable for the usual "ride free" crowd.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 08/23/12 - 05:32 pm
10
0
It's just a name

Why is the president suddenly embracing the name "Obamacare"?

Because calling it by its real name Affordable Care Act might be hard to swallow in the face of reality.

Waymore
103
Points
Waymore 08/23/12 - 06:20 pm
7
0
Time

It may be time to just play the odds and drop my insurance and bank what I'd pay in premiums for a few years.

gildea09
57
Points
gildea09 08/23/12 - 06:23 pm
5
0
Really?

Someone remind me. When was the last we state employees got raises? How many times have they raised insurance since we did get raises? Thank you very much may we have some more PLEASE!

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 08/23/12 - 08:11 pm
6
0
We don't get raises, we get pay cuts

in the form of increased costs for decreasing benefits. And we've been having our salaries reduced steadily for the past 5 1/2 years.

SemperParatus
3225
Points
SemperParatus 08/23/12 - 08:47 pm
7
0
An absolute outrage!

An absolute outrage!

fatboyhog
2013
Points
fatboyhog 08/23/12 - 09:30 pm
6
0
As a Richmond Co.

As a Richmond Co. commissioner once told his employees, "Your job is your raise!"

nocnoc
44930
Points
nocnoc 02/20/13 - 02:23 pm
6
0
Headline

.........

OhWell
326
Points
OhWell 08/24/12 - 06:56 am
2
1
Is an health care option plan

Is an health care option plan available to them. Unless you have chronic problems many times that is the way to go.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/24/12 - 07:53 am
4
1
Fluke Phenomenon

Yes, women will get their "free" birth control pills, but the insurance premiums will be higher.

corgimom
34064
Points
corgimom 08/24/12 - 08:11 am
1
3
Join the party, it's like

Join the party, it's like that in the private sector, too.

Personally, we don't like increases any more than anybody else, but we are just grateful that my husband has a job that has health insurance benefits and that his employer pays for most of the costs.

And we are grateful that my husband is healthy enough to work.

I had to have shoulder surgery a few months ago. It cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Suddenly, our health insurance premiums seemed pretty reasonable.

Maybe people should just stop a minute and count their blessings.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 08/24/12 - 08:29 am
5
0
They are still blaming it on

They are still blaming it on Bush. The Feds got another 2 year pay freeze but the unions are telling people to vote obama. They say the republicans will cut our benefits.

JRC2024
9290
Points
JRC2024 08/24/12 - 08:57 am
4
2
And what is wrong with state

And what is wrong with state employees and federal employees paying more of the costs. My wife's employer pays nothing and we pay $1081.06 per month. They have a good deal so do not gripe. The tax payers are helping you with most of the cost.

rebellious
21295
Points
rebellious 08/24/12 - 09:34 am
3
1
Teachers

are the ones getting the short end of the stick. From system to system, furloughs and now benefits cost increases are chipping away at what is already a meager salary for "classroom" teachers. Time to start looking at this middle level of management such as Graduation coaches, etc... to trim costs. Leave the front line soldiers alone.

allhans
24009
Points
allhans 08/24/12 - 09:54 am
4
0
The CBO announcements this

The CBO announcements this week should have been enough to inform the public of just what this administration has wrought on us, but the Dem base is still enthralled and don't want the truth.

Sweet son
10736
Points
Sweet son 08/24/12 - 12:06 pm
2
0
Medicaid:

Just another tax!!!! "Program, set aside, entitlement, and the list is endless."

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 08/24/12 - 12:45 pm
0
3
the libertarian speaketh

Of the increases, 2 percent are to cover changes required by the federal health reform law.

The rest of it is austerity. I thought right4lifers LOVED austerity.

Little Lamb
46920
Points
Little Lamb 08/24/12 - 01:32 pm
3
0
Five Ways

Bill McMorris wrote this list in the Washington Free Beacon:

Five Ways Obama Is Hurting the Middle Class

1. Prices are up

The average American family is spending an extra $40 per month on food under Obama, according to data from the Department of Agriculture. Gas prices have also skyrocketed since 2008, rising from $1.78 per gallon under President George W. Bush to $3.72 per gallon and climbing as Labor Day approaches. College tuition, meanwhile, has jumped 25 percent. Health care costs continue to rise.

2. Decreased savings

Americans are struggling to manage their day-to-day expenses, leading many to abandon the savings that have been an entryway to the middle class. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans have reported no savings, a five percent jump since Obama took office.

3. Record-high handouts

Nearly half of all Americans—49.1 percent—received some form of government assistance in 2011, including unemployment, Medicaid, and welfare. Food stamp recipients jumped 45 percent over the past three years. Means-tested government transfer payments can act as marginal tax increase, studies show.

4. Wealth has vanished

Median income has plummeted since the start of the recession. Wages remain stagnant. The average household has lost $4,300 from its annual income since Obama took office. Average wealth fell 40 percent during the weakened recovery. Nearly one in three mortgages are now underwater.

5. Joblessness

The root cause behind all of these issues is unemployment, which has remained above 8 percent for the past 42 months, despite Obama’s assurances. People are also staying unemployed for longer periods of time: The average jobless person can expect a nearly 40-week wait in between jobs, double the 20-week rate when Obama took office.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 08/24/12 - 01:41 pm
2
1
why are working people all of a sudden becoming the enemy!!!!!!!

When you set go through college and plan on a career, you are marketable. Therefore people that want you to work for them make their job more attractive by offering more benefits. Once in that career you should be protected from losing said benefits. New hires should be offered the lesser benefits and people already in place should fall under a grandfather clause. That's why people have STRIKES.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 08/24/12 - 01:44 pm
3
0
Cut welfare EBT Section 8 Ect..........

Don't cut working peoples benefits before you cut worthless tax dodging sorry non-working pieces of burden on the back of tax payers.

allhans
24009
Points
allhans 08/24/12 - 04:15 pm
2
0
And pray tell me why those

And pray tell me why those who pay no taxes at all, those who get checks from the IRS called child credit or some such are the ones complaining (whining) loudest about the % of tax Romney pays.

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 04:48 pm
2
0
Fact Or Fiction

Number One: Health Reform Is Good For Seniors.

Millions of taxpayer dollars (that’s our dollars) have been spent on Andy Griffith television ads and other advertisements trying to convince seniors that they are big winners under health reform. If the Federal Trade Commission 7TC could claim jurisdiction over these ads, a lot of Obama administration folks would be headed for the hoosegow.

In fact, 40% of the cost of giving subsidized insurance to young people is being paid for by reduced spending on the elderly and the disabled. For the next 10 years, the spending reduction totals $716 billion. That’s no small change.

The Obama ads and the White House Television talking points stress new benefits for seniors: a free annual wellness exam and the eventual closing of the “donut hole” for drug coverage. What they conceal is that for every $1 spent on new benefits, seniors will lose $9 in other spending — which gives a whole new meaning to the term “bait and switch.”

Consider people reaching the age of 65 this year. Under ObamaCare, the average amount spent on these enrollees over the remainder of their lives will fall by about $36,000 at today’s prices. That sum of money is equivalent to about three years of benefits. For 55 year olds, the spending decrease is about $62,000 — or the equivalent of six years of benefits. For 45 year olds, the loss is more than $105,000, or nine years of benefits.

In terms of the sheer dollars involved, the planned reduction in future Medicare payments is the equivalent of raising the eligibility age for Medicare to age 68 for today’s 65 year olds, to age 71 for 55 year olds and to age 74 for 45 year olds. But rather than keep the system as is and raise the age of eligibility, the reform law instead tries to achieve equivalent savings by paying less to the providers of care.

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 04:50 pm
1
0
Fact Or Fiction #2

Number Two: Seniors Will Not Lose Any Medicare Benefits.

To begin with, one in four Medicare beneficiaries is in a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans may be overpaid by Medicare, but they are required to “spend” their overpayments on extra benefits for the enrollees. These include extra drug coverage, dental benefits, etc. Over the next 10 years, ObamaCare will reduce spending on these plans by $156 billion and this reduction will inevitably lead to a loss of benefits. The remainder of the cuts in Medicare spending will mainly be in the form of reduced payments to providers. Although promised benefits won’t change under orthodox Medicare, in the very act of reducing provider fees, health reform will cause seniors to get less care. So while the White House claim that beneficiaries will not lose benefits may not be technically a lie, surely the FTC would pounce on a private company if it said the same things.

Remember: lower payment to providers means less access and less access means less care. One study of the Children’s Health Insurance Program found that simply enrolling children in CHIP did not result in more health care. That is, they had the same number of doctor visits, etc. However, increasing the fees CHIP pays to doctors does result in more care. And presumably the converse is true as well.

According to the Medicare Office of the Actuary’s memorandum, in about two years, Medicare payments to doctors will fall below Medicaid rates and will fall further and further behind Medicaid with each passing year. Medicare payments to hospitals will basically match the Medicaid rate, indefinitely into the future. What will this mean? Seniors will be lined up behind welfare mothers in the attempt to find doctors who will see them and institutions that will admit them. As Harvard University health economist Joe Newhouse has explained, seniors will likely have to seek care at community health centers and safety net hospitals. As the Medicare Office of the Actuary has explained, in a few short years, hospitals will begin closing and senior citizens will have increasing difficulty obtaining access to care.

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 04:52 pm
1
0
Fact Or Fiction #3

Health Reform Has Made Medicare More Solvent.

Remember, all the health reform act does is pay doctors and hospitals less money. On paper this makes the Medicare trust fund appear to last longer because its expected expenses go down. But if you think this is a legitimate way to make Medicare more solvent, why not be even more aggressive? We could wipe out Medicare’s $43 trillion unfunded liability entirely if we reduce doctor and hospital fees all the way to zero!

The problem is: seniors would not be able to find a doctor who would see them or a hospital that would admit them.

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 04:53 pm
1
0
Fact Or Fiction #4

ObamaCare Is Fully Paid For.

The White House claims that ObamaCare makes a small profit — that is, that it actually reduces the deficit.

Yet last Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Cokie Roberts baldly asserted that the (ObamaCare) cuts in Medicare spending will never happen. In fact she asserted this with such an air of inside-the-Beltway authority that none of the other talking heads on the program dared to challenge her. She may be right.

We’ve already been through this exercise with a piece of Republican legislation — the 1996 budget act. The Republicans decided to balance the budget, in part, by slowing in the growth of Medicare doctors’ fees. However, in the following years, Congress repeatedly stepped in at the last minute to delay the reductions. The next point of reckoning will come in January, 2013, when a 10-year “doctor fix” will require about $271 billion.

Think about that for a moment. Republicans and Democrats together have promised various constituencies almost $1 trillion benefits — to be paid for by taking $1 trillion away from Medicare providers over the next 10 years. Yet, like Cokie Roberts, no one in Washington thinks that Congress will stick to the bargain.

If it doesn’t, that means that ObamaCare was never really paid for, that it will create a new entitlement that will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, and that nothing has happened to make Medicare more solvent.

By the way, neither the Congressional Budget Office nor the Office of the Medicare Actuaries thinks the cuts are sustainable. That’s why both agencies have put out “alternative” projections of Medicare finances for future years — which is Washington’s way of telling Congress, “We don’t believe you.”

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 04:55 pm
1
0
Fact Or Fiction #5

Health Reform Is Going to Make Medicare More Efficient.

An alternative to cutting provider fees is to slow the growth of Medicare by making the whole system more cost effective.

The goal here really isn’t a partisan issue. The Obama administration has continued a number of the pilot programs and demonstration projects started under the Bush administration. These are designed to find ways of making Medicare less costly through pay-for-performance, coordinated care, managed care, home-based care, electronic medical records, etc. The Congressional Budget Office has looked at these efforts on three separate occasions and each time has concluded that they are not working or, in the few cases where there are positive signs, the performance is lackluster.

In the absence of such efficiencies, the law basically mandates a reduction in provider fees.

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 04:57 pm
1
0
Fact Or Fiction #6

ObamaCare Takes $716 Billion out of the Medicare Trust Fund; by Repealing the Act, We Can Put the Money Back.

Governor Romney says that ObamaCare robs Medicare in order to create a new entitlement for young people. That’s a fair statement. But then he goes on to say that the money came from the Medicare Trust Fund and that he wants to put it back. That’s not OK. There is no money to be put back into Medicare. Both political parties have tried to “pay for” benefits by squeezing the Medicare providers. Romney can un-squeeze the providers if the Republicans win the next election and repeal ObamaCare. But that still leaves Medicare with an unfunded liability on the order of about $86 trillion.

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 04:58 pm
1
0
Fact Or Fiction #7

There Is a Medicare Trust Fund

Both Republican and Democrats talk as though there is a real Medicare Trust Fund. There isn’t. Almost all federal trust funds work the same way. They hold no real assets. They are nothing more than accounting conventions, designed to keep track of the inflow of taxes and dedicated premiums and the outflow of benefits. This is true of the Social Security Trust Fund, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, the Highway Trust Fund, etc.

Like Social Security, Medicare operates on a cash flow basis. The accounting “surplus” in the trust fund cannot be used to pay even a dollar of benefits. To pay Medicare benefits, the federal government must first tax or borrow.

CobaltGeorge
164620
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/24/12 - 05:01 pm
1
0
Fact Or Fiction #8

By Privatizing the Program, Paul Ryan Would Destroy Medicare as We Know It.

As Tom Saving and I explained the other day, there is no important difference in Medicare spending under Barack Obama’s budget and under the Ryan budget — even when the estimates of the president’s budget are made by his own Office of Management and Budget and the Ryan plan is projected by Ryan himself. Nor is there much difference in implementation — at least till this point.

Much has been made of the fact that Paul Ryan would create “vouchers,” allowing seniors to buy private insurance. To hear the critics tell it, this would radically transform Medicare. But we already have a voucher program under Medicare. It’s called Medicare Part C, or the Medicare Advantage program. One out of four beneficiaries has taken advantage of it to enroll in the same kind of health insurance plans non-seniors typically have.

President Obama has long favored reducing the payments to these plans and significant cuts are part of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). However, neither the president nor any other prominent Democrat is calling for the abolition of these very popular plans. To the contrary. The administration is busily shoring them up with “bonus payments,” fearful that a significant number of plans leaving the market would anger elderly voters.

Although Paul Ryan clearly favors an expansion of private Medicare plans, his budget implicitly endorses the very same cuts in payments to them that are incorporated in current law.

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