More choice in $3 billion health care plan

Georgia prepares to give teachers, state workers, more choice in $3 billion health care plan
More than 650,000 teachers, state employees and their dependents will be getting more health care options under a plan announced Tuesday by the Department of Community Health.

The agency said it will increase the number of companies managing the $3 billion State Health Benefits Plan and offer more coverage options, including HMOs, starting next year.

The announcement is in response to months of protests by teachers and retirees over changes made this year that limited their options and dramatically increased out-of-pocket costs.

The state made the changes in hopes of saving about $200 million annually, but Gov. Nathan Deal and DCH gave into strong public criticism by putting more money into the state budget to reduce some of the high out-of-pocket costs.

State lawmakers included language in the state budget for the upcoming year directing DCH to give members of the benefits plan more options.

The agency was sued last year when it limited the number of companies managing the main health care program to one, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. UnitedHealthcare, which previously helped manage the program, accused DCH of “state-sponsored bid-rigging.”

DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese announced Tuesday that the agency will have an evaluation team review proposals for 2015, with a final decision coming over the summer. Deal, who is up for re-election this year, announced two weeks ago that a teacher will be included in the evaluation team.

By James Salzer
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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