State employees to face health insurance increase

? Current and retired state employees will be hit next year with increases of 12 percent to 46 percent in the health insurance premiums they pay.

The increases, which will take effect Jan. 1, were approved Thursday by the Kansas State Employees Health Care Commission on a recommendation by Gov. Bill Graves’ administration.

State employee groups reacted angrily.

“Where will the attack end on state employees and retirees?” asked Betty Vines, president of the Kansas Association of Public Employees. “The insensitivity of this administration is unbelievable.”

Vines noted that last year health insurance co-payments and deductibles increased and this year state employees received no pay raises.

Kyle Wendt, the state’s health benefits administrator, said the increases were needed to cover increased health-care costs. The increases are large because there was no increase in premiums last year, he said.

The increases will affect about 35,000 state employees including those at Kansas University as well as 7,000 retirees and their dependents.

A state employee with the most common coverage called Kansas Choice and three dependents will see monthly premiums increase about $90, or 27.6 percent, Wendt said.

Vines said the higher premiums, coupled with the failure to produce a pay raise, will cause more employees to seek work in the private sector.

The Health Care Commission voted 3-1 for the increases with the only vote against coming from Kathleen Sebelius, who is the Democratic candidate for governor and serves on the commission because she is the state insurance commissioner.