Insurance rates up $5 to $7 a month; Premera dropped

In a time of generally escalating health-care and insurance costs, there is some good news for those participating in WSU’s health benefits plan.

For instance, office co-pays will remain at $10 and lifetime maximum benefits will double from $1 million to $2 million.

The flip side is that Premera will be dropped as a provider because employee costs would have been too high.

“That’s by far the biggest news for us,” said WSU Payroll Director Alice Smethurst.

She said 767 WSU employees subscribe to Premera.

“With their dependents, it’s really a loss of more than 1,000 people who will have to rethink what plan they will go to,” she said.

Employees with the Uniform Medical Plan will face no such challenge. WSU’s 1,930 subscribers to UMP will see their rates go down to $29/month from $36/month for employee only. That’s a savings of $7 per month, or $84 annually.

Smethurst said she’d heard of one employee commenting, “Thank goodness for Uniform; I’m going to get a raise next January,” because of the cut in premium costs.

Premium costs for those in other medical plans will go up. In all, the average employee share will be about $79 per month, compared to $72-$74 per month today.

Jan Mason Rauk, associate director of Benefit Services, suggested employees take a careful look at health care options this fall. “Many people base their decisions strictly on their premium cost, that out-of-paycheck cost each month, without comparing the content of each plan,” she said.

The Uniform plan, for example, has a $200 per person deductible that must be met before the 80/20 percent coverage kicks in for most medical expenses, she said.

A better approach, Rauk said, is to consider what benefits are being bought versus what is really needed. A complete analysis involves premium costs, but also deductibles, co-payments, coverage, pharmacy costs and access to the medical providers of choice.

The key is getting “the best benefit bang for your buck,” based on you particular needs, Rauk said.

Another consideration is whether your primary physicians participate in the programs you are considering.

Open enrollment for 2004 will run from Oct. 20 to Nov. 30, 2003. WSU’s benefits webpage, www.wsu.edu/benefits, will be updated as more information is available.

The WSU Pullman Benefit Fair is scheduled for 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, on the French Ad concourse. Other location dates will be posted on the Web as they are set.

In addition, a new employee health benefits orientation session is planned for Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2:30-5 p.m. in 405 Lighty.

Here are the 2004 monthly premium share rates for the five health maintenance/managed care options and the two Uniform Medical Plan options:

* Kaiser Foundation: employee only, $32/month (up from $12); employee & spouse, $75/month; employee & children, $56/month; family, $99/month.

* Group Health Cooperative: employee only, $43/month (up from $30); employee & spouse, $96/month; employee & children, $75/month; family, $128/month.

* Options Health Care: employee only, $61/month (up from $44); employee & spouse, $132/month; employee & children, $106/month; family, $177/month.

* PacifiCare: employee only, $80/month (up from $40); employee & spouse, $170/month; employee & children, $140/month; family $230/month.

* Regence Care: employee only, $81/month (up from $54); employee & spouse, $172/month; employee & children, $142/month; family $232/month.

* Uniform Medical Plan: employee only, $29/month (down from $36); employee & spouse, $68/month; employee & children, $51/month; family, $90/month.

* UMP Neighborhood (a pilot program only available in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties): employee only, $19/month; employee & spouse, $49/month; employee & children, $34/month; family, $63/month.

Rates are subject to change. Please refer to open enrollment information (coming in September) for final premium rates.

A complete comparison of health care monthly premiums can be found on the chart at www.pebb.hca.wa.gov/oe/changes.shtm. This is the Washington State Health Care Authority website for the Public Employees Benefits Board, which covers higher education and 300,000 other state employees.

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