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State of Oklahoma employees brace for health insurance cost increase

Sterling Zearley, director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said the health insurance rate hikes are going to be tough on state employees.
by Randy Ellis Modified: August 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: August 26, 2013

State employees who were bypassed for an across-the-board pay increase earlier this year may want to brace themselves for another financial hit.

Due partially to Obamacare, the cost of health insurance premiums will be going up on seven of the eight insurance plan options offered to state employees beginning Jan. 1.

Increases will range from 2 percent to 12.5 percent, depending on the plan chosen and number of family members on the plan.

For employees who choose the popular HealthChoice High option, the option chosen by 80 percent of state employees, premiums will go up $20.88 a month for single employees with no dependents. Couples with two or more children on that plan will see their premiums rise $31.10 a month.

The federal Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, is responsible for part of the rate hike, said Frank Wilson, administrator of the Employees Group Insurance Division of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

It requires a new federal tax that adds $5.25 a month per covered person to the cost of self-funded HealthChoice insurance plans, he said.

Health Maintenance Organizations are required to pay both the new tax and additional fees, so employees who choose the CommunityCare HMO and GlobalHealth HMO options will experience much greater rate hikes, he said.

The only insured state employees who will escape the premium hikes are those who choose the cheapest, most basic health plan — the high-deductible HealthChoice S-Account.

Their premiums will remain unchanged, but only about 350 of the state's estimated 33,000 employees are on that plan, Wilson said.

The new federal tax applies to the HeathChoice S-Account as well as the others, but the Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board chose not to pass the tax on to those policy holders.

Sterling Zearley, director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said the rate hikes are going to be tough on state employees.

“The rising cost of health care, especially HMO premiums, is taking more money out of the pockets of hard working state employees,” he said. “Many of these workers have not had a raise in several years and their expenses continue to rise.”

To see 2013 premiums To see 2014 premiums

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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