2 insurers picked for university health plan

The contract for state employees and teachers has dominated the discussion of Georgia health benefits this year, because of widespread complaints that erupted over choice of plans and out-of-pocket costs.


But almost drowned out by that uproar is another state health contract with a big impact for employees and the insurance industry.

The Board of Regents this week approved two insurers to deliver medical services in 2015 to University System of Georgia employees.

The two winners currently hold University System contracts. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia has been selected as a statewide health plan, and Kaiser Permanente will offer an HMO alternative in metro Atlanta and in Athens.

CVS Caremark was chosen as the pharmacy benefits manager for the self-insured plans.

The Board of Regents is the governing body for the state’s 31 public colleges and universities and provides health insurance to more than 100,000 employees, retirees and dependents.

Marion Fedrick, vice chancellor for human resources at the Board of Regents, told GHN on Thursday that the plan design is being changed and will include incentives to employees for healthy behavior.

That’s part of the general ‘‘wellness’’ trend that many large employers are using to contain health costs and improve worker health. “We don’t want to be overburdensome for employees,” Fedrick added.

“Health outcomes are our focus,’’ she said.

The Board of Regents spent about $450 million to $500 million on health care in 2013. Health costs have been increasing at about a 10 percent annual rate.

Earlier this week, the Department of Community Health said it would seek to give employees more choices in next year’s State Health Benefit Plan. At the beginning of this year, many state employees, retirees, teachers and other school personnel complained about their options in the newly implemented 2014 plan, leading to organized protests. The state responded swiftly, amending the plan in January and pledging more improvements in 2015.

While it’s not as big as the State Health Benefit Plan, which has 650,000 members, the University System contract is still a significant business to land for a health plan. It’s a five-year renewable contract, and can be renegotiated each year.

Blue Cross currently is the single health insurer for the SHBP, while Kaiser Permanente is expected to bid to become a vendor for the state employees plan for the 2015 benefits year.

Blue Cross said in a statement that the company and its employees “look forward to continuing our relationship with the University System of Georgia in 2015 and beyond.’’

“Our focus on improving health, in addition to our innovative program features and extensive provider network, make us the smart option for the [University System’s]  100,000 members.’’

And Kaiser Permanente of Georgia said in a statement, “We’ve had a longstanding partnership with the Board of Regents and are delighted that we will continue to have the opportunity work with them to deliver high quality, affordable care through our coordinated care system and help their employees lead healthier lives.”