- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The health insurance plan for state employees and retirees in Montana is expected to lose $14 million this year, leading to likely increases in premiums, co-pays and deductibles in 2015, state officials said.

Karen Wood, acting administrator of the state Health Care and Benefits Division, informed an employee advisory council of the proposed changes on Monday, Lee Newspapers of Montana reports. A majority of council members opposed the increases, but the council’s vote is only advisory.

The administration of Gov. Steve Bullock has the final word. Information on 2015 rates and benefits must be to the printer by the end of the month, Wood said.

The administration knew 2014 would be a loss year because it held down rates and used plan reserves to cover rising costs, state Budget Director Dan Villa said.

The losses include $4 million from large claims that came in higher than expected and $5.5 million in claims that are coming in later than expected, said Kelly Grebinsky, an actuary hired by the state.

State workers who only insure themselves through individual plans, shouldn’t have to pay more because the state is increasing its contribution to cover the costs of medical and dental premiums by 10 percent, from $806 to $887.

Medical premiums for a couple would increase from $926 to $1,070 a month, with the state paying $845.

A single retiree would see health insurance rates rise from $734 to $931 a month, a 27 percent increase.

The state is proposing increasing deductibles from $500 to $750 for a single person and from $1,000 to $1,500 for a family.

Co-payments for doctor visits would increase from $15 to $20. Employees could still visit state-funded health clinics in Helena, Billings, Miles City and Missoula without making the copayment. The state expects to open a fifth clinic in Butte this year.

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