Teachers, state workers will see stable health care premiums
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia teachers and state employees next year won't see the types of rising health care costs seen in many industries in recent years — at least not in 2019.
The Georgia Department of Community Health recently got approval from its board to keep premiums flat for the upcoming year for teachers and state employees.
Teachers and state workers also won't see an increase in deductibles or co-pays, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .
The agency runs the 650,000-member State Health Benefit Plan.
Some education and state government retirees in the $3.2 billion plan will see their Medicare Advantage rates jump, while others will experience decreases or no changes, based on the type of plan they choose.
The program — which is funded by taxpayers and premiums paid by those who are covered — would also add enhanced mental health benefits and had begun a weight-loss pilot program, said Jeff Rickman, who oversees the state health plan.
"We've had some good years in the financial stability of the plan overall," Rickman told the board at a recent meeting.
Last year, officials were projecting a $242 million shortfall for the plan in fiscal 2020 if no changes were made.
However, Rickman said the agency has seen cost savings in several areas, including by changing the manager of pharmacy benefits for plan members.
Some plan members said they expected favorable news because 2018 is an election year, when voters will choose a new governor, lieutenant governor and General Assembly.
At a similar meeting in 2014 — the last time there were elections for statewide offices — officials announced that premiums would remain the same or even go down for some plan members. That meeting was held after months of protest by teachers, state employees and retirees over changes in the plan.
"We are pleased that the costs of and services provided by the SHBP will at least remain stable for this upcoming (election) year," Cobb County educator John Palmer, a spokesman for Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices, wrote in an email to the Journal-Constitution.
"However, even though we have built back the plan reserves and the economy is booming, the state has not restored any of the cuts to the plan designs and price structure that we were told were necessary during the recession," Palmer added.
About 650,000 teachers, state employees, retirees and family members receive their health insurance through the State Health Benefit Plan.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com