Politics & Government

Kansas employees face higher out-of-pocket health costs in 2017

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State employees will face higher premiums, co-payments and, in some cases, deductibles as the state tries to shore up cash reserves for its employee health plan next year.

The changes stem in part from recommendations made to the state by a consulting firm earlier this year, according to a PowerPoint presentation obtained by The Eagle.

The PowerPoint notes that the health plan’s reserves have dipped below a $59 million target and that the “plan is to build the fund back to this level over the next two years.”

To that end, the state will increase its employer premium rate by 7 percent and increase employees’ premiums by an average of 9 percent.

Some state workers will see a more significant increase if their spouses are covered by the plan as the state looks to “adjust spousal rate to reflect true cost of coverage.”

Single state workers enrolled in “Plan A” will continue to have a $1,000 deductible, but state workers who have their spouse and children enrolled on their plan will face a $3,000 total deductible beginning in 2017.

The co-payment for physician visits will rise to $40 for a primary care physician and $60 for visits to a specialist, a $10 increase.

The changes were determined by the state’s five-member Health Care Commission, which includes Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer and Secretary of Administration Sarah Shipman.

“The adjustments made by the Health Care Commission will help to ensure a more stable system in the long-term which will allow for more stable benefits for employees,” Shipman said in a statement. “While no one wants to see costs increase, timely plan design changes, including increased employer contributions, are meant to increase reserves in order to maintain plan solvency into the future.”

The changes have been criticized by the Kansas Organization of State Employees, the union that represents state workers.

“They’re getting worse benefits, they’re paying more, and this is coming out of a paycheck that hasn’t seen a pay increase since 2009,” said Rebecca Proctor, the union’s executive director.

State workers enrolled in “Plan C,” the state’s high-deductible plan, will now pay 20 percent of the cost of doctors’ visits after they hit their deductibles of $2,750 for single workers and $5,500 for families.

The out-of-pocket maximum for state workers, previously identical to the deductible, will increase to $5,000 for single workers and $10,000 for families.

They’ll also see the employer contribution to their health savings accounts reduced from $1,500 to $1,000 for a single employee and from $2,250 to $1,250 for an employee with dependents.

The National Business Group on Health released a survey last week projecting that employees of large private companies could expect to see premium increases of about 5 percent.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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