State officials are delaying changes to its health care plan, but the elimination of a deductible plan may become a headache for local teachers and state workers in the future.
According to Associated Press reports, the governing board of North Carolina’s health insurance plan for state employees, teachers and retirees is delaying the consideration of major cost saving plans that include phasing out a popular plan.
A voting decision for benefit changes by the State Health Plan Board of Trustees was scheduled Friday. The board’s staff recommended to eliminate the “80/20 plan” in 2018. It allows members to pay 20 percent of health care costs up to a certain deductible. Brad Young, a spokesman for the State Treasurer’s Office will delay that discussion until a later date. Forty percent of the plan’s 691,000 participants use the 80/20 offering.
Terrace Miller, assistant superintendent and director of human resources for Clinton City Schools, reported that talks of getting rid of the 80/20 plan is concerning for employees in the school district.
“We along with our employees have been very concerned about the possible changes to their state health plan,” Miller said. “Many of our employees currently use the 80/20 plan and they are not happy with the possibility of having to switch to a different plan.”
Young also said the board will not talk about making recommendations to the General Assembly to exclude employee spouses from coverage. Changes can be made, but legislative approval is required for eligibility requirements. Spouses without employer insurance likely would have to go to the state’s health exchanges to have premium subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.
“We are also very concerned about the possible exclusion of spouses from the coverage,” Miller said. “This would create an undue hardship for our employees to have to find other coverage as well as creating additional expense for them.”
Following a decision by lawmakers in September, a lot of changes are being proposed for a mandate in the state budget. It directed State Treasurer Janet Cowell and the health board to find new ways to control plan costs for state agencies making contributions to cover employee expenses. A recent recommendation for next year called for higher deductibles, cost-sharing and increased premiums for active workers.
Another plan is to raise the cash reserve to 20 percent of its total costs. The plan “looks forward to working with the General Assembly on a solution that will maintain the financial stability of the State Health Plan while providing meaningful benefits to teachers and state employees,” Cowell’s office said in a release.
Although a change is not coming soon, several organizations such as the North Carolina Association of Educators, North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, scheduled a news conference to criticize health plan changes. Members in those organizations believe it will increase hardships on teachers and workers who already receive low pay.
“It is difficult to see the cost of our benefits, such as our State Health Plan, continue to increase while the majority of our state employees see minimal if any increase in their pay,” Miller said.
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