State officials said Tuesday that they plan to increase the number of insurers and health plan options for state employees and teachers next year. The State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) has been a target of fierce criticism since Jan. 1. That’s when changes to its benefit design, plus the use of just one insurer, sparked widespread complaints from teachers and state employees about a lack of choice of insurance plans and higher health care costs.
Roughly 100 people rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday to protest changes implemented this year to the State Health Benefit Plan for state employees and educators. Those changes have sparked a groundswell of criticism from thousands of Georgians about a lack of choice of insurance plans and higher health care costs.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia is gearing up to handle the transition of the State Health Benefit Plan to a co-pay system next month. Consumers may get a rebate or credit on their previous health care transactions for this year, as a result of the switch to a co-pay system. Currently, patients are operating with a co-insurance model, where they pay a percentage of the costs of a health service.
A state agency offered some financial relief to state employees and teachers Monday by approving changes in their health plan at a specially called board meeting. The sudden action by the Department of Community Health board follows a deluge of complaints from members of the State Health Benefit Plan, which also covers other school personnel, state retirees and dependents.
The commissioner of the Department of Community Health on Thursday upheld the award of the state employees’ health benefits contract to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. Clyde Reese, the DCH commissioner, also upheld the award of the pharmacy benefits management contract to Express Scripts. The contract award sparked intense criticism from UnitedHealthcare, which charged that the bidding process was flawed and needed to be redone.
Attorneys for UnitedHealthcare continued hammering away at the state’s award of an employee benefits contract to a competitor, saying Wednesday that it was a deeply flawed bidding process that needs to be redone. United currently holds the SHBP contract, along with Cigna, which has also protested the award.
The state agency in charge of health care for more than 2 million Georgians continued its administrative shake-up with the announcement Monday of a new head of the state employee health plan. The employee plan has been at the center of controversy in recent months.
In an unexpected move, a state agency’s board has rejected a proposal to offer an HMO option to state employees in seven metro Atlanta counties. The 6-3 vote Thursday by the Department of Community Health board reflected opposition to offering a choice of health plans in metro Atlanta but not in other areas of the state.
Georgia health officials have decided to ban coverage of abortions in nearly all instances for those enrolled in the state employee health insurance plan. Thursday's decision by the board of the Department of Community Health means the policy will bypass state lawmakers who didn't take action on similar legislation earlier this year.
State officials are trying to close a shortfall of about $63 million for the health insurance plan that serves state workers and retirees. The amount is a big improvement over a multi-year deficit of more than $800 million the plan originally faced.