Fletcher's Insurance Plan Not Well-Received

By Dina Kaplan

(FRANKFORT, Ky., September 7th, 2004, 5:30 p.m.) -- Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher has revealed his insurance plan for state and school workers, a plan that would cover over 140,000 people. But teachers and state workers are upset about higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs. WAVE 3's Dina Kaplan reports.

In announcing the plan, Fletcher said he "inherited a disastrous, unsustainable mess" in health insurance, compounded by the General Assembly's failure to enact a budget for the new

"There are no easy answers. But this, I think is a very thoughtful, a very good approach to move to controlling the healthcare costs that have been spiraling out of control."

According to the governor's new plan, teachers and state employees who paid a $10 co-payment for doctor's visits in 2004 would begin paying 20 percent of the cost of that visit next year. Prescription drugs, which cost employees a maximum of $30 in $2004, could cost up to $100 in 2005.

And employees in Louisville who currently can choose plans from either Humana or Bluegrass Family Health must change to United Health Care next year. Gov. Fletcher says the state negotiated the best healthcare rates with one provider for each region in the state.

"No one can argue that healthcare costs are on the increase," said Robert Ramsey, Secretary of Personnel. "This increase in cost creates uncertainties for many people, but I can assure you that Gov. Fletcher and this administration will everything within our power to keep healthcare costs under control."

To soften the blow, the governor also announced a pay raise. Fletcher also said state employees, teachers and other school employees scheduled to get a two percent raise this fiscal year would
get an extra one percent on Jan. 1.

For the first time, premiums would be based on employee salaries, helping those in the bottom pay grades, and would include discounts for nonsmokers.

Despite the salary increase, the prospect of higher health care costs is raising the possibility of a teacher strike. Leadership for Jefferson County's Teacher Association says the increases are too much, and plans to recommend a statewide strike at the end of the month.

A final decision on whether or not to strike would be left up to a statewide meeting of teacher delegates later this month.