Insurance Premium Hikes Increase Strain on State Workers

Due to significant increases in state workers’ health care premiums paid to health insurance companies, state agency employees and retirees will again face increased financial strain, according to the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA).


The Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board (OEIBB) met Friday to announce the health insurance premiums for 2014.  The premiums for active employees increased by an average of 3.62 percent for HealthChoice, 7.8 for GlobalHealth, and 12.5 percent for Community Care.  The HealthChoice supplement for pre-Medicare retirees will increase a little over two percent.  (To view the 2014 HMO premiums click here:  Monthly and Biweekly.) 


“The 2014 rates are significantly higher than last year and it frustrates workers who are trying to do the best job they can but are worried about providing a future for their families,” said Sterling Zearley, OPEA executive director. “State workers are now providing more services than ever with fewer employees and those employees are earning less each year.”


According to Jess Callahan OPEA President and OKDHS employee in Hugo, Oklahoma, increases like this cause workers to leave state employment for higher-paying jobs elsewhere costing state agencies millions of dollars due to high employee turnover.


“Raising insurance premiums on state employees, especially front-line staff, will force some of Oklahoma’s hardest workers to continue to pinch pennies to make ends meet. If Oklahoma’s leadership is serious about recruiting and retaining the best possible workforce for state government, our total compensation package must be addressed now,” Callahan said. “Failure to do so will continue to push qualified workers to the private sector. It is time for all state employees to unite through the OPEA and demand fair compensation. ”


“The rising cost of health care, especially HMO premiums, is taking more money out of the pockets of hard working state employees. Many of these workers have not had a raise in several years and their expenses continue to rise,” Zearley said. “Our workers didn’t get a pay increase last year but today the state is asking them to pay more for their insurance. They are not asking to be given anything but only to be treated fairly.”


“We hear all the time about how rich the state employee benefit package is. The truth is, state workers earn these benefits by providing critical services for Oklahoma’s citizens like watching over our prison system or keeping our roads safe,” he said. “The benefit package is not that lucrative because the expense to the employee continues to rise and their pay does not.”



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