State Health Plan will put off discussion of controversial changes

Posted February 3, 2016
Updated February 4, 2016

N.C. health, mental health, Medicaid generic

— The board overseeing North Carolina's health plan for teachers, state employees and retirees says it will delay discussion of controversial changes that sparked concerns among many beneficiaries.

Board members are still scheduled to meet on Friday at 3 p.m. to vote on changes in store for 2017, including some rises in costs for members.

But the trustees will not take on changes proposed for 2018 that could have eliminated the "80/20" coverage plan – a basic form of health insurance used by roughly 280,000 workers.

"Any further benefit changes beyond 2017, including the discussion regarding phasing out of the 80/20 Plan, will be delayed until a later date," said a news release issued by Brad Young, a spokesman for the State Treasurer's Office.

The health plan's staff is part of the Treasurer's Office, and Treasurer Janet Cowell, a Democrat who is not running for re-election this year, is chairman of the board.

During a meeting last week, health plan trustees also discussed pursuing an option that would eliminate coverage for the spouses of state workers. That's a change that would require legislative approval and also appears to be off the table for Friday's meeting.

Those and other potential changes prompted advocates with the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the largest group representing state workers, to say it would make the plan "the worst" of any state-run health benefit in the U.S.

Lawmakers have directed the health plan to look for changes that both cut costs for taxpayers and ensure the plan has a savings reserve for future unexpected costs.

"With this legislative directive in mind, the State Health Plan must continue to work through various scenarios beyond 2017 to increase member engagement in order to reduce costs over time while providing meaningful benefits in accordance with the Board’s strategic plan," Young wrote. "The State Health Plan looks forward to working with the General Assembly on a solution that will maintain the financial stability of the State Health Plan while providing meaningful benefits to teachers and state employees."

Opponents of the change say they're still wary.

"We know this battle for fairness for plan members is far from over, and will remain vigilant," said Ardis Watkins, the lead lobbyist for SEANC. "Costs for working families should not go up until the plan has stopped paying 35 percent more than market rate to hospitals. State employee and retiree pockets are simply viewed as easier to reach into than big hospitals and that is wrong. We are proud that our members took a stand for all state employees in the face of this wrongheaded approach."


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  • Cynthia Wilson Feb 3, 2016
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    I saw this coming when they got in bed with BCBS as the only health care provider. When I started many years ago we had much better plans and now.......

  • Antonio Armisto Feb 3, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Maybe she suggested this to cause the political backlash it is receiving??

  • Amy Whaley Feb 3, 2016
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    The state Treasurer is democrat and probably was hoping to increase the Obamacare enrollment.

  • William James Feb 3, 2016
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    Its amazing that the State Treasurer and the board thought it would be ok to cut the benefits of thousands of poorly paid state employees and they didn't even have the common courtesy and professional integrity of generating an analysis comparing state employee salaries, benefits, and costs in comparison to others states and not just the poorest in the country like they have in the past, which is basically like price fixing. They don't use poor state employee data to determine their own salaries, executives, lawyers, doctors, or the like, just the working class! I mention the working class because they will be far more negatively impacted by the benefit cuts.

  • Antonio Armisto Feb 3, 2016
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    Thanks WRAL for bringing this to the public's (state employees) attention!

    Glad they backed off on this (at least for now). WHY would you cut the LARGEST subscribed plan the state has? This is the only benefit the state offers that is good! No raises in 10 years, and now you want to cut benefits AND put spouses on Obamacare! Do the republicans really want another 100,000 State employee spouses to sign up for Obamacare? Cause that is what would happen!