Government

Health insurance bills for Iowa state employees rise

Most Iowa public workers can't bargain over premiums

Members of the Iowa Executive Council — from left to right, Gov. Kim Reynolds, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate — discuss a proposed 2020 state health insurance plan Monday at the state Capitol building in Des Moines. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Members of the Iowa Executive Council — from left to right, Gov. Kim Reynolds, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate — discuss a proposed 2020 state health insurance plan Monday at the state Capitol building in Des Moines. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — State employees who enroll in the government’s 2020 health insurance plan will pay slightly higher monthly premiums under either the Iowa-based or national provider networks included in a recommendation approved Monday by the Iowa Executive Council.

The renewed 2020 health contract with Wellmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield calls for a 2.5 percent increase in rates, said Jessica Lingo of the state Department of Administrative Services, but that includes a 1 percent hike for state employees covered by dental plans calling for 50-50 cost shares for implants. Without dental coverage, the 2020 rate increase averages 1.5 percent, she said.

“We’re all very keenly interested in trying to keep these increases at a minimum to whatever extent possible,” said council member Mike Naig, Iowa’s secretary of agriculture. “We’re doing better. Any increase is something we have to address.”

Lingo said the state’s revised 2020 package compares favorably to private-sector health insurance premiums and has no plan changes for copays, coinsurance deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

“We’re still trending far below the private sector,” Lingo told the council members, noting that private health insurance premiums are ranging from a 12 to 15 percent increase. “We are still below that base line comparatively,” she said.

State employees have two options — Iowa Choice and National Choice — to consider during the enrollment period from Sept. 30 to Oct. 29. Currently, the state has 20,989 contracts for 53,838 covered members — down from 21,442 contracts for 54,374 covered members in 2018.

Under recommendations approved 4-0 by the Executive Council vote, participants in the single Iowa Choice plan would pay $45 of the $761 monthly premium compared with $39.26 a month now — which is the same 6 percent share they currently pay of the $699 overall cost. The state’s monthly share will go from $659.74 to $716 for single plans.

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Premium costs for family plans will jump from $147.66 to $160 for employees, who will pay 9 percent of the overall $1,788 monthly bill while the state’s 91 percent share goes from $1,494.34 to $1,628 under the Iowa Choice option.

State employees enrolled in the National Choice plan will see their monthly share of the $837 monthly premium increase to $121, or 14 percent, for single coverage and to $336 to cover 17 percent of family coverage cost of $1,964 with the state picking up $1,628 for its share.

Lingo said the state projects overall claims for 2020 will total $347.15 million — a nearly 15 percent jump from the about $303.3 million in claims projected for the current calendar year.

She said the administrative fee the state pays for its health insurance coverage will increase by 1.68 percent while the state should get higher-than-expected prescription drug rebates of $15 million. Also the state experienced an increase in the number of large claims topping $100,000, and the average increased by $13,000 per large claim.

Along with Naig, Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald approved the state’s revised 2020 health insurance plan. State Auditor Rob Sand was not present for Monday’s meeting.

In 2017, majority Republicans in the House and Senate revamped the collective bargaining law to remove health insurance and other benefits as mandatory subjects of negotiation with public sector unions — except for the State Police Officers Council, whose about 600 members still bargain over benefits.

Former Gov. Terry Branstad signed House File 291 into law before he resigned to become ambassador to China.

In 2016, state employees paid $20 a month for a single or a family health insurance plan. After the collective bargaining changes, that monthly fee was doubled to $40 for individual in-state health insurance plans and $150 a month for a family plan under the current contract.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

2020 state health plans

Iowa Choice

2019

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Single: $699 ($39.26, or 6 percent employee, and $659.74 or 94 percent state). Family: $1,642 ($147.66 or 9 percent employee and $1,494.34 or 91 percent state)

2020

Single: $761 ($45 or 6 percent employee and $716 or 94 percent state). Family: $1,788 ($160 or 9 percent employee and $1,628 or 91 percent state)

National Choice

2019

Single: $769 ($109.26 or 14 percent employee and $659.74 or 86 percent state) Family: $1,806 ($311.66 or 17 percent employee and $1,494.34 or 83 percent state).

2020

Single total: $837 ($121 or 14 percent employee and $716, or 86 percent state). Family: $1,964 ($336 or 17 percent employee and $1,628 or 83 percent state)

Source: Iowa Department of Administrative Services

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