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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate eyes state health care cost; could save by ending freebies

10

February

One of the best perks of being a Florida state worker is the health care, which costs very little for most and is free for others, including legislators. But senators, staring down a $3 billion budget deficit, are considering possible changes that could have them paying toward their costs. Other options include eliminating HMOs as one of the health care choices available to state employees.

"This is information, not a proposal," Senate budget chairman J.D. Alexander stressed. But given the rising health care costs facing the state, changes are likely, according to lawmakers and budget staffers.

"Obviously, we're looking to save some money," said Sen. John Thrasher. "We have got to control costs."

Florida is spending $1.7 billion on health care for its current and retired employees this year, and the cost is projected to rise to $1.9 billion in 2010-11. Yet low and free deductibles mean that state employees  pay only about $160 million a year toward their health care costs, Alexander said.

Most employees pay a deductible of just $50 a month for themselves or $180 for a family. And more than 25,000 employees -- including legislators, the governor and governor's office employees and the Cabinet -- pay nothing.

"In general, your contributions are lower than what is typical compared to what other employees are paying across the country," said Richard Stover, an actuary with Buck Consultants.

A recent report by Buck Consultants concluded the state can save about $118 million by removing HMOs as an option, plus another $143.6 million by requiring employees to buy a high-deductible, self-insured plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:19pm]

    

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