AK: Retired Public Employees Blast New Health Insurance Plan

Mike Barnhill, Deputy Commissioner, Alaska Department of Administration

Mike Barnhill, Deputy Commissioner, Alaska Department of Administration

The group Retired Public Employees of Alaska (RPEA) is blasting recent changes to the state health insurance plan, which covers about 84,000 people, including about 68,000 retirees and their dependents.

The retirees’ group argues that changes that took effect on Jan. 1 have reduced the plan’s benefits — a charge that state officials deny.

The Alaska Dispatch recently reported that RPEA hired a consultant to compare the old health insurance plan to draft documents about the new plan that the state recently presented to public employees.

Based on that analysis, the association believes there have been “significant reductions to (its) benefits coverage,” RPEA President Jay Dulany told the Dispatch.

A state official acknowledged that changes to the dental benefits will likely mean increased costs for people who have out-of-network dentists. But basic coverage, including deductible costs, pharmacy co-pays and medical coverage, haven’t changed, according to Department of Administration Deputy Commissioner Mike Barnhill.

“There wasn’t any intention to be any reduction in benefits,” Barnhill told the Dispatch.

Dulaney told the newspaper that he believes the state is trying to decrease costs. The paper reported last summer that the state has an unfunded liability of $12 billion in its state retirement system. About $3.8 billion of that is health care costs.

The state of Alaska is self-insured but uses a third-party contractor to process claims. In January, the state switched its contract to Aetna.