Government

State health insurance costs 'fairly flat'

2019 enrollment period to start Oct. 8

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — State employees who enroll in the government’s 2019 health insurance plan will be paying slightly lower monthly premiums compared to the Iowa Choice option under a recommendation approved Monday by the Iowa Executive Council.

However, those who chose to seek coverage with an out-of-state provider will be paying higher premiums under the National Choice option, said Janet Phipps, director of the state Department of Administrative Services. Currently, about 83 percent of the 21,203 contracts for 54,393 covered members are enrolled in the Iowa Choice option and 17 percent in the national option, she said.

Under the premium recommendations approved by a 3-0 Executive Council vote, participants in the single Iowa Choice plan would pay $39.26 of the $699 monthly premium compared to $40 a month now — which is the same 5.62 percent share they currently pay of the $712 overall cost. The state’s monthly share will go from $672 this year to $659.74 in 2019 for single plans. Premium costs for family plans will drop about 1.6 percent, Phipps said.

State employees enrolled in the National Choice plan will see their monthly share of the $769 monthly premium increase $16.26 for single coverage and $38.66 for family coverage while the state share decline slightly under the recommended changes approved by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, State Auditor Mary Mosiman and State Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. Gov. Kim Reynolds and State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald were not present for Monday’s council meeting.

Phipps called the 2019 changes “fairly flat,” which she told council members “seems to suggest they were priced correctly for this year.”

In July, the council voted 5-0 to authorize a new two-year state employee health insurance contract with Blue Cross-Blue Shield with projected claims of $332.4 million for the plan year beginning next Jan. 1. The projected claims were up $2.4 million from the current coverage year, which would be less than 1 percent, Phipps said. There are no changes to deductibles, copayments or coinsurance costs under the 2019 plan.

The new contract would cover slightly more employee contracts (21,442 versus 21,203) with the same plan design now in place and would provide coverage for a projected 54,374 members. An enrollment period for employees interested in signing up for the 2019 plan with two options will take place Oct. 8 through Nov. 9, Phipps said, but state officials won’t be able to calculate the overall cost breakdown for employees and for the state until after the enrollment period ends.

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During the 2017 legislative session, majority Republicans in the House and Senate revamped the collective bargaining law to remove health insurance and other benefits as subjects for negotiations — except for the State Police Officers Council, whose roughly 600 members still bargain over benefits. Former Gov. Terry Branstad signed House File 291 into law before he resigned as governor to become U.S ambassador to China.

An analysis by the state Department of Management determined the state experienced a $44.86 million net gain in 2018 from its reworked public employee health insurance plan that is costing an extra $13.2 million for thousands of state workers — many who no longer are allowed to bargain collectively for benefits.

In 2016, state employees paid $20 a month for a single or a family health insurance plan. After collective bargaining changes Republicans made in 2017, 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. A more expensive national option was available, too.

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

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