Nevada Reduces State Employee Benefits

> CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – A state panel voted Thursday to slash benefits for
> tens of thousands of retired and current state employees, including
> eliminating  <> insurance
> for some family members and drastically reducing other coverage.
> The Public Employees’ Benefit Program Board approved measures that
> eliminated insurance for spouses or domestic partners of employees or
> <> retirees who have
> other available coverage through an employer. The cuts, which take effect
> next July, affect 70,000 participants.

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> The board also eliminated dental benefits, except for preventive procedures
> like cleanings, an annual exam and X-rays. More costly procedures, like
> fillings, crowns or root canals, are no longer covered.
> “Our decisions here today are going to be significant and have a long-term
> impact,” Randall Kirner, board chairman, said near the end of the eight-hour
> meeting.
> The board also voted to end supplemental coverage for retirees on Medicare,
> and move them to a market-exchange system in which they would choose from
> various private plans and providers for Medigap and prescription drug
> coverage.
> James Wells, program executive officer, said without program cuts, premiums
> for current employees alone would skyrocket as much as 500 percent, from $40
> to about $200 monthly.
> Jim Richardson of the Nevada Faculty Alliance, which represents
> higher-education faculty, said he had concerns about the market exchange for
> Medicare recipients, saying it “sounds too good to be true.”
> Perhaps the biggest change was doing away with the existing
> preferred-provider system in favor of a high-deductible program
> Deductibles for individuals will jump from $800 annually to $2,000
> and up to $4,000 for family coverage.
> Co-payments that currently limit out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions and
> doctor visits will be eliminated. Participants will pay 25 percent of the
> total cost, with a cap of $3,900 for individuals and $7,800 for families.
> The board also reduced life insurance payouts and long-term disability
> benefits. It slashed the payouts by half, to $10,000 for active workers and
> $5,000 for retirees.
> The disability benefits were pared down from 60 percent to 40 percent of
> employee base pay, with a worker option to purchase the extra 20 percent.
> Representatives of retirees and employee groups said the changes were
> drastic and could have unintended consequences.
> “Obviously these plans cut utilization,” Richardson said. “What that means
> is people don’t go to the doctor.”
> The cuts Thursday trimmed $80.7 million in subsidized services, which is
> about two-thirds of a $111 million shortfall faced by the program for the
> two-year budget cycle that begins July 1, 2011.
> The remaining $30 million will be made up in higher premiums paid by workers
> and retirees. The board will tackle those options when it meets next month.
> Marty Bibb, executive director of Retired Public Employees of
> Nevada, said the program has given up roughly $80 million in budget
> cuts over the past two years.
> “We recognize that there are serious budget cuts that have to be made,” he
> said, adding the board’s proposals are a “dramatic departure” from current
> practices.
> To offset the burden to workers and retirees, the board agreed to help set
> up health  <> savings
> accounts and health reimbursement accounts that could be used for
> out-of-pocket costs or non-covered expenses.
> Some of the changes must be approved by the Nevada Legislature.
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