Proposed employee benefits contract raises concerns

Employee representatives raised concerns on Wednesday that signing a new health maintenance organization (HMO) contract for the Nevada Public Employee Benefits Program would cost state workers another $100 a month.

But Executive Officer Damon Haycock said on Wednesday that won’t happen.

“I’m not going to sign a contract that increases prices by $100,” he said the day after the board, on a split vote, decided to negotiate with Anthem for a statewide HMO program.

Haycock said the board liked many of the things Anthem offered including access to hospitals in its system even outside the state of Nevada. Hometown Health restricts which hospitals participants can go to while Anthem doesn’t. Haycock said access to care is a big concern for board members. Those board members also liked the idea of one statewide HMO plan for PEBP participants.

“Please don’t panic,” he urged state workers. “We have to negotiate those costs down. If we can’t negotiate down to something acceptable, we can activate our second choice.”

That second choice would be to renew the current contracts with Anthem in Southern Nevada and Hometown Health in the Northern Nevada.

Board member Jacque Ewing-Taylor, one of the “no” votes on the board, said the acceptable cost would be no increase in current rate. She said analysts at the meeting said by going with Anthem in the south and Hometown Health in the north, overall rates would go down about $20 a month.

She also said Hometown Health was “by a long shot the highest rated of the vendors.”

She said the problem is the PEBP state budget is already set by the Legislature.

“Anything that strays outside the budget next year gets on the backs of the employees,” she said.

Terri Laird of the Retired Public Employees of Nevada sent an email to members laying out the issue and raising the same concerns. RPEN advocates including Marlene Lockard went on record in the meeting saying cost differential has to be fixed before the program signs with Anthem.

PEBP provides health benefits to some 25,000 active employees plus their spouses and children as well as more than 3,900 non-Medicare retirees. Altogether the plan insures some 42,000 people.

Ewing-Taylor did convince the board to pass a motion directing Haycock to negotiate not only no increase but getting Anthem to agree to PEBP audit requirements and performance guarantees.

“Their feet will be held to the fire,” she said.

Haycock said Anthem officials stated at the meeting they are willing to negotiate.


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