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Archive for Friday, September 28, 2001

Democrats blame governor for health insurance increase

September 28, 2001

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— Legislative Democrats on Thursday criticized Gov. Bill Graves for an increase in the cost of health insurance for state employees.

But the legislators didn't offer any concrete proposals to offset the increase.

"We should at least be willing to put every option on the table," said Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka.

Kuether blamed Graves, a Republican, for the increase, saying, "For seven years, this administration has recited rhetoric like 'high and tight.' However, today they are leaving state employees high and dry."

In July, the Kansas Health Care Commission, led by the Graves administration, voted to increase deductibles and the annual maximum amount an individual would pay for treatment on almost all insurance plans offered to state employees.

The commission said the increase was needed to offset a projected $43 million shortfall in the program, which was caused by increasing costs of medicine and treatment.

The increase will affect some 90,000 state employees, dependents and retirees, including more than 4,000 workers at Kansas University.

"This is not the kind of example the state should be setting for other employers," Kuether said.

But Kyle Wendt, benefits administrator for the Kansas Employee Health Care Commission, said that the state was sharing in the cost of trying to bridge the shortfall. He said state agencies, as employers, will be contributing $9 million more, and another $18.9 million that had been in reserves will be used to keep costs down.

Wendt's comments represented the response by the Graves administration, according to Tiffany Ball, a spokeswoman for Graves' Department of Administration.

Kuether said that before the state committed to the increase, Graves should have met with lawmakers to discuss other options.

Enrollment into the insurance plan is occurring now, and the changes will take effect Jan. 1.

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

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