A DCH spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The $3 billion-a-year insurance plan has been a hot topic since last summer, when the contract to manage the program for 2014 was awarded to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. That prompted one of the companies that had been managing the plan, UnitedHealthcare, to sue the state, arguing that the DCH had resorted to “state-sponsored bid-rigging” to steer the contract to Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
To save money, the state limited the insurance offerings to three plans, with different deductibles and premiums, along with higher out-of-pocket costs.
Once those higher costs started kicking in, teachers, state employees and retirees revolted, forcing Deal and the DCH to backtrack and add back lower co-payments for services, costing more than $100 million.
By doing so, the lawsuit says, the state made all three plans similar. But the premiums didn’t change, so those in the highest level plan paid more than twice as much as the lowest-cost plan. The difference for family coverage for an employee runs as high as $279.44 per month, the lawsuit said.
“Their explanation so far is, ‘we have the right to change benefits,’ ” Parks said. “It is kind of like, I want a premium package on my new Ford, and they say it will cost $2,000. You pay the money, but you don’t get the package.”
News of the lawsuit was posted this week on the Facebook page of the 15,000-member Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes, or TRAGIC.
“We are pleased that State Health Benefit Plan members took it upon themselves to initiate a class-action lawsuit regarding the upheaval in our benefits this year,” said Ashley Cline, the wife of a Cherokee County science teacher and founder of the group.
“While TRAGIC did not originate the lawsuit, we will certainly communicate important news and information to all of our members as this affects many of us enrolled in the State Health Benefit Plan,” she added. “Feedback from TRAGIC members has been very positive so far, and many members are grateful that someone is taking action on their behalf in an attempt to rectify this situation.”