Schools, agencies to pay higher health plan rates

Georgia officials are raising the employer contribution rates for school districts and state agencies to cover employees in the State Health Benefit Plan.

Those employees also may face premium increases for 2014, though their rates won’t be announced until later this summer. This year, teachers, other school personnel, state employees and retirees in the state’s benefit plan had an average increase in their health insurance premiums of 9.5 percent.

In recent years, the SHBP has shrunk a deficit of more than $800 million. Part of the reduction has come from charging school systems more to cover their non-certificate personnel — administrative assistants, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and the like.

State officials also said Thursday that they plan to announce next month the winning vendor or vendors of the coveted contract to deliver medical care in the SHBP, which covers more than 650,000 state employees, teachers, school personnel, retirees and dependents.

Currently, UnitedHealthcare and Cigna hold the contract, with United covering more than 90 percent of members.

The raises in state employer rates were approved by the Department of Community Health’s board in its meeting Thursday.

Separately, Tim Connell, the agency’s chief financial officer, told GHN that there will be a slight delay in the state’s paying disproportionate share (DSH) funding for hospitals that serve a large number of low-income patients.

But Connell said there is no cash crunch in Medicaid, and that the program, along with SHBP, will end this fiscal year with a positive balance.

The state’s fiscal year ends June 30.

Connell acknowledged that Georgia hospitals were overpaid by up to $10 million in ‘‘upper payment limit’’ funds. Those overpayments will be resolved in the coming fiscal year by reducing reimbursements to those hospitals by a corresponding amount, he said.

Community Health’s board also approved a public notice for moving 26,000 foster children and 250 kids in the juvenile justice system into a managed care plan. A primary goal of the transition is “to improve medical oversight,’’ said Jerry Dubberly, the state’s Medicaid director.

The agency’s board also signed off on the appointment of Tanja Battle as executive director of the state’s pharmacy and dental boards, which are moving under the agency’s supervision