State workers, retirees upset about insurance & benefits - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

State workers, retirees upset about insurance & benefits

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State workers and retirees especially, are angry, upset and worried about about changes in insurance and benefits. To retirees, changes they hear about amount to broken promises in exchange for years of dedicated public service.

"Working as an educator in Jeff Davis Parish is not exactly a path to financial prosperity...yet those who have made it their life's work feel good about their contribution to society," said John Juneau, of Jeff Davis Parish.  His education career spanned 45 years by the time he retired.

"I've always enjoyed what I did as long as I could afford to pay my insurance and other expenses I had. I wasn't too worried about the future at the time," said Juneau. 

Yet, now, as he and others begin their retirement years, they fear higher insurance costs due to changes at the State Office of Group Benefits.

"My main concern is the deductibles we're going to have, the co-pays that we're going to have to do with it," said Juneau.

Retired teacher Linda Clayton is also concerned.  "We're going to have to be expected to have to pay more out of our own pocket which means that we're probably going to have reduced care," she said.

They blame Governor Jindal for what's happened and drastic reduction in what was a $500 million surplus. Many of their concerns stem from what they've read on a blog known as Louisiana Voice.

"That money has been robbed by state government to pay for other things," said Clayton.

Former Jeff Davis School Superintendent, and long time educator, David Clayton, retired just a little more than a year ago.  He is very concerned to see what happened to the surplus.

"Well, we certainly did not expect to have a very viable Office of Group Benefits with a $500 million surplus that was really a model in the United States, and to have that money in their reduced to what now, we will probably run out of money within the next year or so," said David Clayton.

 However the CEO of the Office of Group Benefits, Susan West,  says there is a lot of bad information causing needless fear among state workers and retirees.

"That's very regretful that they feel that way because we think once they see the plans, and they actually hear from OGB in those meetings, it'll eliminate a lot of the fear that has been disseminated by incorrect information," she said.

Officials say the state will offer affordable, quality coverage through a new set of plan options with a variety of coverage choices. Enrollment for the plans starts October 1 and runs through October 31.  Workers and retirees are expected to get a postcard in the mail reminding them of important deadlines, meeting and how to get more information. Click here for details about upcoming meetings.

Also, a spokesman for the Governor's Division of Administration offers the following to concerned workers and retirees:

·         The cost of health care is rising - the Affordable Care Act, an aging population, and an increase in the cost of health care overall – means that employers have to make changes to their health plans to be fiscally responsible

·         Today, OGB offers one of the richest plans in the region, with premiums 15% lower than the national average

·         The reality is that we cannot continue to offer the exact same plans as we offer today if we want to remain financially responsible

·         Besides plan changes, we are taking steps to lower our costs, including launching a new health and wellness program that will help our members live better and making administrative changes throughout the organization

·         In 2015, we will also offer several new health plans along with HMO, PPO and CDHP plans comparable to what members have today. 

·         For a lot of members, the new plans will save them in out-of-pocket costs.

·         We'll be educating our members on the new plans in a lot of ways:  

o   We are hosting 41 meetings across the state for retirees and current state employees

o   An informational website will be launched September 15

o   We have created an out-of-pocket cost calculator that can help members estimate their costs for the next year depending on the plans chosen

o   We have expanded call center hours to accommodate member questions.  When you call OGB, you will talk to a live person who can walk you through the plan options for 2015.

o   Seven live webinars will be held throughout September and October

o   Each member will receive a Decision Guide in the mail

o   And OGB is actively working with retiree associations and will be speaking at RSEA's conference in October

·         The bottom line is that OGB will continue to offer quality plans to its members.

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