State officials responded to questions Wednesday about the controversial new health insurance plan for 650,000 state workers.
Many have complained that they were given only one choice of insurers and it has forced up their premiums while reducing benefits.
Georgia's Department of Community Health (DCH) oversees the insurance program and said this year's change will save the state $200 million per year.
"In the years past, the state had seen some budget deficits," said Lisa Marie Shekell, DCH director of communications and legislative affairs. "We're not only trying to address some past deficits, but make sure we have long-term ways to manage the cost of our health care."
Teachers are among those unhappy with the new health insurance plan.
"Even if we are saving $200 million, if it's a plan that isn't serving its members well and the members are not being heard or listened to, then I question how good a plan it is," said Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE).
PAGE represents 84,000 educators across the state.
Shekell said while the state is offering only one health insurance plan, there are three levels, bronze, silver and gold, available to workers. She said premiums vary based on an individual's situation.
"There may have been an option available for a member to choose an option with a lower premium," said Shekell. "That certainly may not be the case for every member, so I certainly don't want to make that statement."
Some workers are organizing a protest at the State Capitol next month.
"There's a lot of confusion out there,"said Callahan. "There's a lot of concern, and I think the state has made it worse on itself. They have not been very clear in their communications. They haven't been very open in the process. It's got a lot of people very upset.
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Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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