Co-pay system to return for 650,000 state workers - CBS46 News

Co-pay system to return for 650,000 state workers

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

The Department of Community Health voted Monday morning to bring back co-pay system for 650,000 workers.

Commissioner Clyde Reese, III told board members via teleconference that the current health insurance plan was not "well understood by many of our members and out-of-pocket costs have created financial stress."

In 2014, the state had offered 650,000 state workers only one health insurance plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. In previous years, they had several choices.

Many workers complained they could not afford healthcare under the plan that originally took effect on Jan. 1.

The changes will bring back co-pays for pharmacy, emergency room services, rehabilitation, urgent care visits and specialist visits. Blue Cross/Blue Shield will continue to be the insurer.

"We don't have all the answers yet to how this is going to go," said Jennifer Hall, an 8th grade math teacher in Cherokee County. "But are going to continue to hold DCH and the governor accountable."

Hall is a member of TRAGIC, Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes, formed by teachers in Cherokee County. It has since grown to 11,000 members.

TRAGIC sent out the following release after the vote:

The grassroots group, Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes, is reserving judgment about the changes voted on Monday by the Department of Community Health Board.

 

"It is encouraging to see the Governor and the Department of Community Health address some of the shortcomings of the 2014 State Health Benefit Plan," said Ashley Cline, founder of the group. "It does not address all of the shortcomings in the current plan, and we will have to examine the plan closely to see how it affects our members; however, we feel it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, by shifting to co-pays for office and ER visits, state employees will not have to worry about going bankrupt if they become seriously ill or have an accident."

 

Cline said that T.R.A.G.I.C. will be watching any future changes closely. "We will certainly be watching to see what happens in the future with our insurance options. We feel the lack of communication from the Department of Community Health about issues facing the State Health Benefit Plan has been problematic, and the finger pointing and misinformation has been unacceptable. We hope the Governor and the members of the DCH Board are serious about addressing this crisis and will work with us to ensure that Georgia's state employees and retirees have access to high-quality medical coverage options that will not leave us broke."

Gov. Nathan Deal today expressed his full support for the Department of Community Health board's decision to lower out-of-pocket health care costs for state employees.

"We heard our state employees and teachers and we listened," Deal said. "I appreciate the board and the commissioner's willingness to work with me on a timely solution. I shared the concerns of state employees and teachers about the high costs they were having to pay out of pocket. I believe this new direction addresses the core concerns of our employees. The SHBP already covered 100 percent of preventative care visits, and these improvements give employees an additional layer of security so they can do the right things to stay healthy. The DCH board faced very tough decisions last year as it sought cost savings in light of large new costs brought on by the federal health care law; these are the same pressures affecting private sector employers across the country, many of whom are tightening eligibility or dropping coverage altogether. In the next budget year for the state, the mandates in the ACA will cost the State Health Benefit Plan an additional $225 million. These costs will force many tough decisions in the years to come. I'll continue to work to keep our best public servants with competitive salaries and the health coverage their families need."

The new plan will officially take effect on March 14, but will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014. DCH will use next few weeks to work on details.

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