Hoping to supress an election-year fire, Gov. Nathan Deal and the Department of Community Health announced Tuesday that 650,000 teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents will get more health insurance choices next year.
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July 24, 2013: The Department of Community Health releases a “notice of intent to award” the administrative/management contract for the state employees health care program to Blue Cross and Blue Shield. UnitedHealthcare accuses the state of secretly bidding out the contract to administer health care for about 650,000 Georgia teachers, state employees, retirees and their family members.
Aug. 21, 2013: A Superior Court judge rejects UnitedHealthcare’s bid to stop rival Blue Cross and Blue Shield from taking over the contract currently held by UnitedHealthcare.
Sept. 22, 2013: A 60-second “Freedom Means” commercial runs during the Atlanta Falcons game. The ad says that Georgia’s state workers, teachers and retirees are being stripped of their choice of health care plans and that citizens should rise up and condemn this threat to liberty. You can view the 60-second “Freedom Means” commercial at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PT3ntF7fyU. The spot, bought by a group whose backers include UnitedHealthcare, does not mention UnitedHealthcare. It says the spot was “paid for by Taxpayers for Healthcare Choice Inc.” and refers viewers to a website called myhealthcarechoice.org.
Nov. 7, 2013: DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese upholds his agency’s decision to award the contract to Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The company has already started enrolling teachers, employees and retirees for the upcoming year. UnitedHealthcare officials have filed suit and will now fight the award in court.
Jan. 1, 2014: Blue Cross and Blue Shield takes over the health plan.
Jan. 12, 2014: Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes, or TRAGIC, starts a Facebook page to organize opponents of the change.
Jan. 25, 2014: Gov. Nathan Deal signals that he will support changes to the health plan. The DCH will call on the health board to add HMO-managed care features to the plan and reinstate co-payments many teachers and employees preferred, cutting out some big out-of-pocket costs. Participants in the plan have complained about higher out-of-pocket costs and fewer health care options since Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia took over the plan.
Jan. 27, 2014: Spurred by angry teachers and a governor seeking re-election, the DCH board agrees to spend about $114 million to restore co-pays in its new health care plans for state workers.
April 15, 2014: The state announces another round of major changes to the health care plan, a little more than a month before the May 20 primaries that a group of teachers, state workers and retirees promises to influence. The DCH says it will increase the number of companies managing the $3 billion State Health Benefit Plan and offer more coverage options, including HMOs, starting next year.
July 1, 2014: The state announces that UnitedHealthCare and Kaiser Permanente will also offer health insurance to state employees next year.