Clarification: An earlier version of this story reported that school district employees were set to see premium hikes as high as 768 percent. That percentage does not reflect a rate increase, but rather, the total payment increase some employees will see as a result of Paulding County Schools’ elimination of a subsidy toward employees’ health insurance costs coupled with state-set rate increases. The story below has been corrected to reflect the clarified language.
Paulding County School System employees will pay higher health insurance costs next year, but teachers and staff in the county aren’t the only ones being hit by higher rates.
That’s one thing district leaders want employees to know as open enrollment in the state health plan approaches—those employed by the school system are a part of Georgia’s health benefit plan, as are those employed by other government agencies across the state.
“Each year, the state sets what the rates will be, the premiums for the following calendar year, January through December,” explained Burton Turner, the district’s supervisor of employee services. “The rates are for all state employees, whether you work for the Department of Transportation, a school district, the prison system—you’re all considered part of that state health benefit plan, so the rates will be the same across the board.”
While the district does not determine the prices in the state health plan, Paulding’s budget situation has led to a cut in its contribution toward employees’ health insurance. The Paulding County School Board in June passed a budget that was balanced with the help of $7 million taken from the district’s reserves.
“In the past the county had paid $56.92 towards everyone’s [health] coverage. Based on the budget issues, that has now gone away,” Burton said. “All rates were increased this year because of the $56.92 and the increase from the state health benefit plan, so there were actually two increases, if you will.”
Because of the district's cut to its subsidy to employees' insurance, coupled with increased state rates, employees will see payment increases as high as 768 percent, with single employees hit the hardest. Single employees with the Wellness United Healthcare HMO plan will see their monthly payment increases ranging from $65.64 to $139.38 while those with the Wellness United Healthcare high deductible plan will see their payments jump from $9.62 to $83.54.
Employees with family coverage will see payment increases ranging from 56 percent to 86 percent when both state and district changes are factored in. For example, employees with the Wellness United Healthcare HMO will see monthly payments increase from $259.94 to $413.86 while those with the Wellness United Healthcare high deductible plan will see their monthly payments jump from $177.50 to $331.48.
Specifics on the state health plan’s changes are expected to be released later this month; the plan’s monthlong open enrollment period will begin in October.
“Each year, we have an open enrollment for all our benefits to school district employees, and that is set by the state, actually the Department of Community Health, which manages the state health benefit plan,” Turner said, “so each year during open enrollment, people can make any changes, they can enroll, they can add dependents, they can delete coverage—basically, do whatever they wish to.”
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