State benefits program to restore some cuts |

State benefits program to restore some cuts

by Geoff Dornan

For a change, state workers will get some good news next week as the Public Employee Benefits Program moves to restore some of the cuts made last fall.

Executive Officer Jim Wells said Friday that claims experience was better than projected in 2010, saving the program money and enabling him to recommend the board restore dental benefits and reduce the high deductible a bit.

Many state workers were upset when the PEBP board voted to eliminate dental coverage except for check-ups and cleanings and to double the annual medical deductibles.

Wells said the board will be asked next week to restore coverage for fillings, crowns and other work, but not to the historic $1,500 a year level. He said the plan is to restore a $1,000 a year benefit for dental work.

He said the deductibles for dental work will be doubled from $50 to $100 for individuals, $150 to $300 for families, and those procedures that were covered at 80 percent would be covered at 75 percent.

But Wells pointed out that is still significantly better than the August decision that eliminated the dental plan.

Wells said the medical deductible will be lowered a bit from the August rates, which were a dramatic increase from the present plan.

The board in August raised the deductibles from $800 to $2,000 for individuals and $1,600 to $4,000 for families. Next week, the board will vote to lower those annual out-of-pocket costs to $1,900 for individuals and $3,800 for families.

In addition, he said the PEBP contributions to Health Savings Accounts created in August will get beefed up a bit to further soften the blow of those high deductibles. The annual individual account contribution will rise from $600 to $700.

Wells said while many state workers see the August plan changes as draconian, they actually represent a shift in policy he believes PEBP needed to make.

“Healthy families and healthy individuals end up better off than they were under the old plan,” he said.

“We could have kept the same plan and raised everybody’s premiums,” he said. “But that’s a one-size-fits-all.”

With the changes, he said more of the cost burden shifts to “the people who are using the plan – out of pocket costs when you actually go to the doctor.”