No health insurance increase next year for 650K Georgia teachers, state workers, retirees

TRAGIC (Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices) was formed the last time UnitedHealthCare and the Department of Community Health got into a spat after the agency made major changes to coverage. BRANT SANDERLIN /BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

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TRAGIC (Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices) was formed the last time UnitedHealthCare and the Department of Community Health got into a spat after the agency made major changes to coverage. BRANT SANDERLIN /BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

For the third time in four years, hundreds of thousands of Georgia teachers and state workers won’t see their health insurance premiums increase.

The Department of Community Health board approved rates for 2022 on Thursday for the more 650,000 Georgians covered by the State Health Benefit Plan.

The vote came a year after the board raised premiums an average of 5% for teachers and state employees.

Deductibles and co-pays will remain unchanged next year for members of the plan, as will the providers offering coverage.

The good news for teachers, state employees and retirees comes as private employers are expecting costs to rise in 2022. An annual report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers in June projected a 6.5% increase in employer medical costs in 2022.

Louis Amis, executive director of the State Health Benefit Plan, told the board the COVID-19 pandemic slowed usage of medical services covered by the plan in the first half of 2020. The same thing happened with Medicaid, the state’s health care program for the poor and disabled. People put off seeing doctors, getting elective treatment and surgeries or seeing the dentist last year after the pandemic began. That reduced medical costs for the program.

Amis said there has been an uptick in expenditures for people going to the doctor and receiving other treatment, but it’s unclear whether that will slow now that the delta variant has COVID-19 cases on the rise.

“No one knows what impact the delta variant is going to have on the plan,” he said.

The State Health Benefit Plan is funded by a combination of “employer” payments — tax money put in by the state and school districts — and the “employee” premiums paid by the plan’s members.

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