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Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 1:58pm

State Health Plan Short $250 Million

The health insurance program for Georgia’s state employees is short about $250 million for next year.

Department of Community Health Commissioner David Cook said the shortfall is the result of a complex mix of factors, including several years of budget cuts, increasing health care costs, and the unexpected early arrival of some federal money.

But Cook said he has not heard talk of a massive health insurance premium hike for state employees as suggested in a newspaper report.

“I don’t know of anyone who’s talking in terms of a 67 percent increase for employees,” Cook said. “We’re talking in terms of a 10 percent increase in employee premiums in [fiscal year 2012].

“There was a 10 percent increase in [fiscal year 2011] and about a 10 percent increase is what we’re anticipating in [fiscal year 2012].”

Governor Nathan Deal’s proposed budget called for a 10 percent hike in premiums, which would cover a portion of the shortfall next year. Cook said the rest likely will be covered by reserves and more money from the state for the employer portion of premiums.

“We don’t have any concerns that the plan will be sustainable. We’re making payments and it’s not in danger at all,” Cook said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday that if the shortfall is made up only with premium increases, employees would pay up to 67 percent more.