July 18, 2011

Benefits board acts on 2012 rates Wednesday - show up or get message in to oppose costly benefit design changes

The Public Employees Benefits Board meets Wednesday to adopt the 2012 premium rates and other benefit changes for your health plan. In November, you’ll have the annual open enrollment period when you can change health plans if you want.

The proposed changes rolled out last week include increases to your premium shares to reflect the negotiated change where you will go from paying 12 percent of your premium costs to 15 percent. So for instance, the share of premiums paid for full family coverage in the Uniform Medical Plan would go from $175 a month to $238 a month; for Group Health, the family premium share would go from $205 a month to $285 a month. These rates are based on weighted averages.

But more jarring are some of the co-pays proposed for diagnostic changes, especially in Group Health. Group Health would actually lower office visit co-pays but pay for them by imposing a $100 co-pay for MRIs, CTs, PET scans; right now, there is no co-pay for those diagnostic services. The Group Health emergency room co-pay would double from $75 to $150. Kaiser currently doesn’t have a deductible; under the proposal before the PEBB on Wednesday, Kaiser would impose a deductible of $150 per person and $450 per family.

The board will also take up the legislatively mandated health savings accounts, renamed “Consumer Directed Health Plans.” The idea is you’d get $700 to spend on health costs, and if you don’t get sick, you keep the money. But if you roll the dice and do get sick, you’d face deductibles as high as $2,800 and, in Group Health total out-of-pocket costs would be capped only when you hit $10,200. This may make sense to some when open enrollment rolls around in November, but it may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing to others.

But as far as this Wednesday’s meeting of the Public Employees Benefits Board, we need your activism:
  • Show up in person if you can. The PEBB meeting will be 1 to 3 p.m., this Wednesday, July 20, at the Cherry Street Plaza Building at the corner of Cherry and 8th Avenue in Olympia in the Apple/Peach Rooms. Wear your AFSCME Green t-shirt if you have one.
  • Or call or e-mail the board to oppose the design changes that increase costs for diagnostics in Group Health, for instance, or to add any other comments you may have. You can e-mail the Public Employees Benefits Board at board@hca.wa.gov. Or call the Health Care Authority at (360) 923-2600 and politely ask the receptionist to take your feedback.
You can review the proposed changes online under the online version of this hotline dated 7/18/11.

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