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Archive for Friday, September 7, 2001

Health insurance costs to increase

September 7, 2001

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State of Kansas employees, including more than 4,000 at Kansas University, won't see more in insurance premiums deducted from their paychecks, but as of Jan. 1 they will pay more through increased deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

For example, under the popular Kansas Choice program, the annual deductible will increase from zero to $300 per person. The annual maximum amount a person would pay for treatment will increase from $500 per person to $2,000.

"That's a pretty good hit," Keith Haxton, president of the State Employees Association of Kansas, said.

"Times are tough for state employees," he said, noting state workers received a pay raise this year of less than 3 percent.

Employee co-payments also will be increased for emergency-room care, and deductibles will be tacked onto all HMO programs.

"We still have an excellent program," Kyle Wendt, the health benefits administrator for the Kansas Employee Health Care Commission, said. But, "there are increased costs at the end of the day."

The changes in the state health insurance plan were needed to offset a projected $43 million shortfall in the program, Wendt said.

The cost of the group health insurance program for the current fiscal year has been forecast at $245 million, while last fiscal year's revenue was $202 million, he said.

The shortfall is because of increased costs of drugs, treatment and increased use of the coverage, he said.

The changes will affect some 90,000 state employees, retirees and dependents covered by state employee health insurance plans.

Kansas University has about 4,200 employees who will be affected, said Madi Vannaman, assistant director of human resources for KU.

Haxton and Vannaman said few employees know about the upcoming changes, even though the period to start enrolling in the various state employee plans starts Oct. 1.

Wendt said the state soon would start getting the word out about the changes.

Vannaman said she hasn't informed KU workers yet because she's awaiting more information from the state. The changes were approved in late July.

Haxton, who is a retired state employee, said health care costs are getting out of control.

"I'm not happy about it, but I don't see there is a whole lot we can do about it," he said.

-- Staff writer Scott Rothschild can be reached at (785) 354-4222.

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