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Health plan won’t raise rates next year for teachers, state employees
health perscription

Georgia teachers and state employees got good news Thursday about their health care benefits.

Monthly premiums, deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance will be the same in 2020 as they are this year, state officials announced.

It’s the second straight time that these health benefit costs will remain the same from one year to the next for non-Medicare members.

The State Health Benefit Plan, with a budget of more than $3 billion, covers about 660,000 state employees, teachers, other school personnel, retirees and dependents.

The benefit offerings – from HMO through high-deductible health plan – will also stay the same. UnitedHealthcare, Anthem and Kaiser Permanente will provide the insurance choices for members.

“We’re happy to offer what I think is a good selection of plan options at an affordable price,’’ said Jeff Rickman, executive director of the State Health Benefit Plan.

For the lowest-cost Medicare Advantage plan, the premium will go up from zero to $20 per month, but to get that lowest rate, retirees will have to switch from Anthem to UnitedHealthcare. The higher-cost Advantage plan from United will have the same monthly premium as now, at $128.22.

“Quality public education is vital to Georgia’s future, and competitive salary and benefit packages are essential to the recruitment and retention of excellent educators,” said Ramona Mills of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

“PAGE was pleased to learn today that the Georgia Department of Community Health unanimously approved a State Health Benefit Plan that contains no cost increases for current educators,” she said. “We are, however, concerned about cost increases to certain Medicare Advantage premiums, and the resulting financial impact on retired educators. PAGE encourages state leaders to ensure that current and retired Georgia educators have access to affordable health care.”

The AJC’s James Salzer points out that the premium for the lower-cost Medicare Advantage plan offered by UnitedHealthcare will fall, but the standard plan of Anthem would go from no premium to $146.15 a month. The cost of United’s premium Advantage plan would remain the same, far less expensive than the one offered by Anthem.

The AJC also reported that Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration made the decision in May to save $235 million by skipping a month’s payment into the SHBP, citing a surplus and the need to make sure the state made its budget for fiscal 2019, which ended June 30.

The recent stability in the state’s health plan is in sharp contrast to the uproar five years ago, when there were widespread complaints from teachers and others and even some organized protests. In response, the state did a fast fix for that year’s benefits and more revisions on the 2015 plan.

State agencies will pay lower contributions to the plan to cover their employees next year, while school systems will pay the same per member per month contribution, Rickman said.

SHBP will retain the current Pharmacy Benefit Manager, CVS Caremark, and the current wellness vendor, Sharecare, for the 2020 plan year.

Open Enrollment will begin Oct. 21 and end Nov. 8 for plan members.

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