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State increases some retirees' premiums

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Younger retired state employees will pay more for their health insurance beginning in October.

Rates for active employees and retirees 65 and over will not change at that time.

The State Employees' Insurance Board approved the 10 percent increase for non-Medicare state retirees at its August meeting.

As of Oct. 1, premiums for retired state employees not covered by Medicare and with single coverage will increase from $152 to $167 per month. The cost for younger retirees with family coverage will go from $180 to $198 per month for a total monthly premium cost of $365, said Gary Matthews, an analyst with the insurance board. Tobacco users covered by the plan will also pay $24 instead of $22 per month.

Current state employees, whose premium costs went up last October, will not face an increase. Older state retirees also will not see an immediate increase.

A committee appointed by the insurance board will study the feasibility of phased-in premium increases for Medicare-eligible retirees in the future.

In other changes that begin Jan. 1., retirees and current employees will pay a higher deductible for some prescription drugs, but their dental insurance benefit will increase from $1,000 per year to $1,500 per person.

The dental benefit increase is the first increase in dental benefits since 1998.

Starting in January, prescription drugs will cost employees and retirees $10 for generic drugs, $20 to $35 for brand-name preferred drugs and $50 to $100 for non-preferred drugs.

Matthews said the board also approved a plan to provide a four-month supply of generic drugs free to those on the plan who take some medications routinely.

Insurance Board Executive Director William L. Ashmore said the state is looking at whether to consider prescription drug coverage through one or more companies that offer Medicare-style prescription drug plans.

"There appears to be a major cost advantage for tapping into some of the Medicare Advantage plans, but we still have to learn what they could offer us," Ashmore said.

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