Thursday, August 23, 2001

Official: retirees push up insurance costs




By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Teachers and other public employees are seeing big increases in premiums on health insurance for families and dependents.

        The increases are as much as 40 percent in some cases, costing employees hundreds of dollars more per month, especially in a dozen counties where there is no competition. An employee can sign on with the only available carrier or forgo dependent coverage.

        “Probably some of these folks will be paying out more for health insurance than they pay for their housing,” said Rep. Tanya Pullin, who represents a one-carrier county — Greenup.

        Personnel Secretary Carol Palmore blamed the General Assembly's decisions over the years to let cities, counties and regional universities withdraw their active employees from the state insurance group but keep their retirees in it.

        Because retirees have higher health-care costs on average, they drove up the cost of coverage for everyone else in the group, she said.

        Ms. Palmore told legislators Wednesday that forcing the universities back into the state group would be “the best thing the General Assembly could do.”

        “If a regional university is going to have its retirees in there, it needs to have its "actives' in there, too,” Ms. Palmore told the interim joint State Government Committee.

        The committee's Senate co-chairman, Republican Albert Robinson of London, said Ms. Palmore's suggestion was “the right thing to do” but unlikely, given the universities' influence. “Legislators are just not willing to bite the bullet,” he said.

       



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