Board restores some state worker health benefits

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A state board has voted to restore to state workers some health benefits that were cut during the recession.

The plan approved Thursday by the Nevada Public Employee Benefits Program board extends the improved benefits not only for the upcoming fiscal year but also the 2016-17 budget cycle.

“I’m happy we were able to restore many of these benefits,” said Leo Drozdoff, chairman of the benefit board and director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Those restorations include reduced annual deductibles as well as the higher annual contributions to Health Savings Accounts for state workers and the companion Health Reimbursement Account for retirees, the Nevada Appeal reported (http://bit.ly/OhWf6P ).

The board earlier voted to cut deductibles from $1,900 per worker and $3,800 per family to $1,500 and $3,000 each year.

Many state workers said those deductibles still are too high and stop people from getting medical care.

But program officials said by using health accounts totaling $1,100 per year, employees can reduce the $1,500 annual deductible in the high deductible PPO plan to basically $400 a year.

“That’s a pretty low deductible,” Drozdoff said.

Also extended into the 2016-17 biennium are the increase in annual dental coverage from $1,000 to $1,500, the annual vision exam, and restoration of the co-insurance coverage after deductibles are met from 75 percent to 80 percent.

The improvements were made possible by burning through excess reserves totaling $54.5 million. Both lawmakers and the executive branch have complained that PEBP has far too much in reserves and needs to use them up and charged the board with reducing or eliminating excess reserves.

When all the costs of the expanded benefits are deducted from the reserves, PEBP Executive Director Jim Wells said there will be about $300,000 left in that category at the end of fiscal 2017.

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Information from: Nevada Appeal, http://www.nevadaappeal.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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