Nevada benefits panel to look at cost cuts |

Nevada benefits panel to look at cost cuts

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Nevada state workers and retirees could be facing higher health insurance premiums and big benefit reductions as administrators look to close a projected $100 million shortfall in the next biennium.

The state subsidizes premiums for employees at 84.8 percent and for retirees and dependents at 57 percent. It has 74,000 enrollees and an annual budget of more than $500 million.

The board that oversees the Public Employees Benefit Program meets Thursday to consider options.

Suggestions include doubling the deductible for family coverage, eliminating co-payments and cutting all lab coverage at hospitals for certain procedures.

Changes to vision and dental benefits also will be discussed, as well as eliminating coverage for spouses or domestic partners with other employer coverage.

“This is grim news,” said James Richardson, who headed the insurance plan seven years ago.

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Kateri Cavin, operations officer of the Public Employees Health Program, said budget officials project the amount the state will contribute the next two fiscal years will be flat.

She said medical inflation is expected to rise 11 percent to 12 percent per year, which would put the shortfall at $90 million to $100 million for the biennium.

“We’re putting it all on the table,” Cavin said of more than three dozen proposals to be considered.

Martin Bibb, representing the Retired Public Employees of Nevada, said he doesn’t want to see premiums increased so much or the deductible increased so high that retirees cannot afford the plan.

“This is a huge concern to retirees,” said Bibb, who noted state lawmakers cut $53 million from the plan in 2009 and another $25 million in a special session this year.

Richardson, who represents the Nevada Faculty Alliance in the university system, said, “This makes the Sage Commission look like a Sunday School picnic,” referring to a report that suggested major cutbacks in the state insurance plan.

The board could make decisions as early as next month.