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State workers in Arizona get ‘platinum’ insurance

PHOENIX — A new study released Tuesday shows most states provide their
employees with health insurance that most private workers would envy — and
Arizona is no exception.

The study by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation shows the
vast majority of people employed by the state of Arizona are enrolled in a
zero-deductible plan that would be considered a “platinum” plan under the
Affordable Care Act.

The state plan covers an estimated 94 percent of medical costs. That compares
to a typical “silver” plan on the federal health insurance exchange that pays
just 70 percent. The average private employer-provided plan pays 80 percent.

Arizona is among the states that pay the largest share of insurance costs,
covering all but 7 percent of the premium for single employees and 12 percent of
the costs for workers with dependents.

Arizona’s health insurance plans cover more than 128,000 active state and
university employees, their dependents and retirees. The state offers three
plans, but 95 percent of enrollees pay no deductibles.

The rich plan may be one of the things lawmakers look at next year when they
have to deal with major budget deficits, House Appropriations Committee Chairman
John Kavanagh said.

“I do believe that we had increased copays as part of strategies to decrease
state costs,” Kavanagh said. “But since we’re facing a budget deficit of $800
million next year and $1.2 billion thereafter, I guess we’ll be looking at that
and many other things.”

Kavanagh acknowledged that good benefits are one of the ways the state attracts
workers to jobs that might not pay as much as those in the private sector.

According to the study, Arizona’s health insurance costs dropped by 5 percent
from 2011 through 2013, from $643 million a year to $611 million.

The state insurance fund’s annual report says administrators effectively
controlled the rise in health care costs through benefit design, administrative
oversight, strategic planning, auditing, and effective contract management.


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