With premium costs going up as much as 12 percent for their health insurance, many Group Benefits members, mostly state employees, are being allowed to change their minds.
Group Benefits reopened enrollment for 89 percent of its 230,000 members to give them the opportunity to choose less-expensive insurance options other than the two most popular, though pricier, plans they had joined.
The insured customers will have from April 10 to April 30 to change plans, drop dependents or cancel their coverage through Group Benefits.
The move comes just four months after Group Benefits members selected health plans under a revamped program that provides a broader array of coverage options. That coverage started March 1.
Effective July 1, premiums are going up 12 percent for the Magnolia Local Plus, an HMO-type offering chosen by 65 percent of Group Benefits members. The premiums for Magnolia Open Access — a preferred provider organization, or PPO, offering that was picked by 24 percent of the members — is going up 10 percent.
In the case of Magnolia Local Plus, single coverage goes from $140 a month to $157 a month, and family coverage goes from $485 monthly to $546.
Premium costs are increasing 4 percent for three other plans from which Group Benefits members can choose. One is a health maintenance organization, or HMO, with a smaller network of providers. Another program is a health savings account, and the third option is a health reimbursement account.
“Last fall, we announced that premiums would increase this July to compensate for increasing health care costs,” Group Benefits Chief Executive Officer Susan West said. “However, we know that circumstances change, and as we get closer to the date of the increase, we want to make sure members who will be significantly impacted have the chance to re-evaluate their decision and, if necessary, move to a plan that better suits their finances.”
The percentage premium increase is based on actuarial data provided by Gallagher’s.
The premium increases also mean extra costs for state government and local school board employers, which generally pay 75 percent of their employees’ costs.
The premium increases are part of the Jindal administration’s plan to stabilize the finances of the state health insurance program, which serves state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents. In addition, there are increases in out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and copays for active employees. Deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums were kept at 2014 levels for retirees on three health insurance plans.
The administration pursued the revamp of the insurance plan offerings to help shore up Group Benefits’ finances.
A $500 million-plus reserve just more than two years ago now stands at less than half, as medical claims outpaced revenues coming in. During the time period, the administration reduced premiums.