Health costs going up for Washington state employees

OLYMPIA — Health care costs will be going up in January for state employees, teachers and retirees.

The Public Employees Benefits Board adopted higher co-payments and deductibles Wednesday on a 4-3 vote. The three no votes came from representatives of state worker and retiree groups.

About 336,000 state employees and retirees and their dependents will be affected through health-insurance policies they receive through the state Health Care Authority.

Some copays and deductibles could double. Monthly premiums for the state’s most popular plan, Uniform Medical, increase from $82 to $123 for full family coverage. Premiums for some plans, including Group Health Classic and Group Health Value, drop, but those plans see new or higher deductibles in 2010.

“This today is an absolute travesty. State workers are taxed even more,” said Greg Devereux, executive director for the 40,000-member Washington Federation of State Employees, who voted against the proposal.

He blamed the Legislature for providing a fraction of the expected 8.7 percent increase that inflation will have on premiums.

Eva Santos, director of the state Department of Personnel, said there weren’t good alternatives after the Legislature made its decision.

“There is no money there to go to,” Santos said.

The state will contribute $745 a month on average for each employee in 2010 for health care, dental and life insurance, a figure that grows to $768 a month in 2011, said Dave Wasser, spokesman for the Health Care Authority.

State employees continue to pay less than 12 percent of health-insurance premium costs, said Health Care Authority Administrator Steve Hill.

Information from: The Olympian, www.theolympian.com

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