State workers get benefits restored

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The Nevada Public Employee Benefits Program board on Thursday approved a plan for the coming year that improves benefits including restoring some that were cut during the recession.

“I’m happy we were able to restore many of these benefits,” said Board Chairman Leo Drozdoff.

He was joined by veteran board member Jacque Ewing-Taylor representing the university system who said she was especially pleased the state will extend the expanded benefits not just through this biennium but the 2016-17 budget cycle.

That includes the lowered annual deductibles as well as the higher annual contributions to Health Savings Accounts for state workers and the companion Health Reimbursement Account for retirees.

The board earlier voted to cut the deductibles from $1,900 per worker and $3,800 per family to $1,500 and $3,000 each year.

Many state workers say those deductibles still are far too high and simply stop people from getting treatment.

But PEBP officials say by using those HSA/HRA contributions totaling $1,100 per year, employees can reduce the $1,500 annual deductible in the high deductible PPO plan to basically $400 a year.

“That’s a pretty low deductible,” said Drozdoff.

Also extended into the 2016-17 biennium are the increase in annual dental coverage from $1,000 to $1,500, the annual vision exam and restoration of the co-insurance coverage after deductibles are met from 75 percent to 80 percent — its historic level.

The board also voted to increase the state-supplied life insurance under the plan from $10,000 to $25,000 for active workers and from $5,000 to $12,500 for retirees.

Northern Nevada PEBP members who are in the HMO operated by Hometown Health Plan also will see some improvements under the plan approved Thursday.

The biggest changes are that their co-payment for Outpatient Surgery will drop from $1,000 to $350 and their Inpatient Hospitalization co-payment from $1,500 to $500.

Southern Nevada HMO members covered by Health Plan of Nevada will see some incremental increases in co-payments. A specialist visit will rise from $15 to $25, urgent care from $15 to $20, emergency Room from $75 to $150 and Inpatient Hospitalization from $200 to $300.

Those amounts all still are well below what their counterparts in the north pay for the same services.

The improvements were made possible by burning through excess reserves totaling $54.5 million. Both lawmakers and the executive branch have complained that PEBP has far too much in reserves and needs to use them up and charged the board with reducing or eliminating excess reserves.

When all the costs of the expanded benefits are deducted from the reserves, PEBP Executive Director Jim Wells said there will be about $300,000 left in that category at the end of fiscal 2017.


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