Georgia sets health premiums for teachers, state workers

Georgia’s state Capitol. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Georgia’s state Capitol. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Hundreds of thousands of teachers and state employees may pay a little more for health insurance next year under a plan the Georgia Department of Community Health board approved Thursday.

Under the plan, premiums for the State Health Benefit Plan will rise on average by 5%. That will mean an extra $11.33 a month on average for active plan members, though the amount will vary depending on the particular health plan they’re enrolled in.

Deductibles and co-pays will remain unchanged. And the plan will add several new benefits, including a case management program for members with rare conditions requiring specialty pharmacy care and a digital mindfulness program to address anxiety.

The board approved the new premium rates by a unanimous vote.

It’s the first premium increase for the State Health Benefit Plan since 2018, when premiums rose 3.7% on average. The plan covers more than 600,000 people, including state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents.

Jeff Rickman, the executive director of the State Health Benefit Plan, told the board the rates approved Thursday are designed to maintain the financial stability of the plan. He said the state’s share of the cost of the plan has increased slightly — from 75% to about 79%.

John Palmer, a spokesman for the group Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices, said “a slight increase in premiums this year was not unexpected, considering the pandemic and its effect on state revenue, and we are pleased with the consistency of plans and providers.” He said it’s important to protect the plan’s reserves.

“With teachers returning to the classrooms and hospitals closing in rural areas, we must protect that reserve fund for the inevitable high medical cost of the pandemic on our teachers, state employees and retirees,” Palmer said.

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