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Rumor Has It: State Workers To Get A Pay Raise This Holiday Season?

Nickel_2 Rumor has it that most state employees (not including law enforcement) will receive a 1.5 percent pay increase before the end of the year.

After three years of telling public servants how much they suck and how the private sector could easily replace them, perhaps the Guv is trying to make up a few of those lost popularity points.

Comments

As a state employee I can confirm that this is true and a memo has been circulated to employees. The idea is to alleviate health care increases. Those increases are estimated at 8%. The state's chipping in 6% to deter the costs. The only problem is that with this "raise" we're still half a percent below the increase. We'll actually make less money by the end of the year.

The Guv never has been very good with numbers.

Any coincidence that an election year is looming?

Can some state workers chime in on the rising health care costs? I heard that the benefits really suck now under Mitch, and that he's pushing people toward health savings accounts. Costing LOTS more money. True?

State govt employee here - We lost our option for the HMO many marion county residents took advantage of, and now we have the choice between a traditional plan with increased premiums or a health savings account, which the HR types are heavily promoting.

The thing that sucks about that is you really have to decide in advance what kinds of health care costs you're going to incur the next calendar year to really make an informed decision with these health savings accounts. I hope I don't need anything beyond preventative care, but what if something happened?

The 1.5% raise is on top of the 0 - 8% performance based raises that will be awarded (april?) in the spring. 0% if you fall below expectations (an expected 10% of the workforce), 4% if you meet expectations (80%), and 8% if you exceed expectations (the final 10%).

State employees switching to the high deductable health savings plans better not get sick in January, when their health savings accounts will have none of the employee or state contributions accumulated to pay health care costs. Best to be sick next December.

State worker health care costs are so high because state workers use, on average, twice that of what other sectors use in health care coverage and benefits.

Need further proof? Take a stroll past the Government Center and watch the dozens of smokers who are out there daily and you can see why.

8:56pm
I wonder about all the increased costs coming from stress related illness: high blood pressure meds, anti-depressants, heart attacks...

Blame it all you want on smokers, but I know that my own anxiety level went up tremendously watching those around me get picked off week by week.

When our commissioner first came in, he kept firing people every other wednesday. we couldn't figure out why wednesday until we found out that he thought since that is when the paycheck came out that was when the pay period ended.

I've since moved on, but know that I contributed to the increased health care costs with topomax (migraines), zoloft (anxiety), welbutrin (depression), and protonix (reflux). Since moving on, all of those symptoms have been resolved, and I don't take any of the meds any more.

HSA's are ok if you know how to play the system. It forces you to think more about where you get your meds filled when the cost is on you up to a deductible. I used to go to CVS but found out they are one of the highest cost places around, so I switched all my stuff to Walmart and get nearly everything for free.

I do agree with Prozac Nation, the stress level is definitely up. But I also agree w/8:56, there are a bunch of workers who do use more than average health services. But HSA's are the wave of the future, the State was just behind the curve allowing us to enjoy HMO's for longer than most in the private sector. And you gotta wonder if M-Plan had stayed in business, how much those rates would have went up. For those that want to see how much the employees/state is paying for benefits check

http://www.in.gov/jobs/openenrollment2008/08rates.htm

Mitch is definitely pushing people towards the HSA accounts. There is a traditional insurance plan and two high deductible plans to choose from for next year. The cost for the traditional insurance plan has more than TRIPLED in the last three years so that more people will get off the plan. Mitch is hoping that the people will either switch to the HDHPs or go on their spouses' insurance outside of the State. He isn't concerned with the health and well being of State workers, he's concerned with money.

The state is also just finishing up the first year of the "One Care Street Program" where workers get an incentive for joining. The idea is to think more about your health care issues and make a plan to be proactive in changing your negative problems. Once you fill out your assessment, there is ZERO follow up from One Care Street and nothing is ever accomplished, but workers get an incentive for signing up. It's a sham program and I haven't talked to one person who actually has changed anything about their life, they just signed up for the incentive. This year the incentive is $10 per paycheck, next year that money is being given to you in one lump sum. The funny thing is that the two lump sums come in April and in October, I don't think it's a coincidence that Mitch is on the ballot shortly following both of those two "bonus" checks.

11:43 is on target. You cannot sign up for the HDHP if you have any other health insurance. If you are covered by your spouse, you either drop that secondary coverage or drop your primary state coverage and go totally with the spouse. If you stay with the traditional plans, you pay a lot more.
As for One Care Street, they do too, contact you. They bug the hell out of you by phone and by mail to sign up. I can't remember who was behind it, One Care or State Personnel, but if you signed up as a non-smoker or a quitting smoker, you got a price cut, but you had to agree to an unannounced, random screening. And they did come around and test. A memo went out to managers in the morning with the names of the randomly selected to report to HR for the test. If a person was absent, another "random" employee was picked.

"I've since moved on, but know that I contributed to the increased health care costs with topomax (migraines), zoloft (anxiety), welbutrin (depression), and protonix (reflux). Since moving on, all of those symptoms have been resolved, and I don't take any of the meds any more."

If this is true, then there really is no hope for this country. If the mere _idea_ that you will get let go is enough to cause true illness, then maybe you shouldn't work at all? Seriously, at any given time, anyone could lose any job. Of course considering saving for rainy days was so 1950s, it is no wonder why folks worry about their jobs. They are not living paycheck to paycheck, but rather Visa statement to Visa statement.

If job worries really bother folks, then I would suggest moving to those wonderful places with socialist healthcare. At least that way if you do lose a job there you don't have to worry about that.

All of the state folks I work with went in the HSA when it first came online. So... I would think that means that those remaining in the 'traditional' plan had higher costs for the HMO due to increased claims?

It would be interesting to see if the increases were driven by the plan going underwater. The rates link shows little increase in the co-pay for the HSA plans, but the premium rates for the HMO plans (traditional) are jacked up.

I don't think that the gov can raise those rates simply by issuing an executive order.

HSA's do require that the plan participant think about the cost of the claims they file. Most of these plans have a similar prescription cost and co-pay amounts as the traditional plans.

"As a state employee I can confirm that this is true and a memo has been circulated to employees. The idea is to alleviate health care increases. Those increases are estimated at 8%. The state's chipping in 6% to deter the costs. The only problem is that with this "raise" we're still half a percent below the increase. We'll actually make less money by the end of the year."

Why should state employees be any better off than the rest of us? I got a 6% raise this year, and my healthcare costs rost about 10% (I dare say I'm not the exception to the rule). That's life in the USA.

This is the same old crap that MSDWT gave their administrators and non-certificated employees in September. Look here's something shiney - a raise in the form of a $1500 cut in your health insurance costs. Ha ha ... the township saves a bundle by switching them to an HMO. The employees are screwed because while the old program payed everything, the new one includes enough co-pays and lousy prescription coverage that most people will be out a lot more than the cut in the insurance costs. Trust me, it's never about anything more than the guy at the top.

I would love to see the documentation (if there is any) for the well-publicized assertion that state workers use on average twice the healthcare of non-state workers. Maybe 8:56 can supply us with that. It's "all Anthem" for state employees in 2008, which must be disappointing to an administration that prides itself on good ol' free market capitalism.

"If the mere _idea_ that you will get let go is enough to cause true illness, then maybe you shouldn't work at all?"

It wasn't so much that as the pure random nature of the thing. There didn't appear to be any rhyme nor reason. An air of paranoia settled over the place. People were afraid to help others because those who worked quietly behind the scenes seemed to be getting dumped while those who took the credit for that work were kept on.

Another thing people forget it alot of state employees, particularly clerical staff, are making around 18k. Where exactly do you get your 50's savings out of that kind of money?

Oh, and by the way, I have mastercard, and the balance is zero. I just happen to get overly anxious when there is more comes around than goes around.

State employee here too: I switched to the HSA this year, and it's a brilliant plan for me. I'd much rather put money into a savings account every month to use when I need it rather than have $300 taken out of my paycheck every month for a premium that I never end up using. There are definitely people who would do better off with the traditional HMO, but the HSA option lets you control your health care and puts control (and responsibility) fully in your own hands.

The HSA also encourages people to be smarter with their health care needs. Shop around for better prices for medicines, visit the doctor when you really need to, rather than everytime your throat hurts. This kind of thinking can help bring down the cost of health care/insurance for everyone.

On the 1.5% "raise", it's not even a Cost of Living Adjustment and, from my understanding, under the previous administrations, there were no raises at all (you only made more money if you changed job titles). 1.5% isn't much (only about $10-12 per paycheck after taxes for me), but it at least shows that our employer realizes that health insurance costs are rising and it's a little showing of good faith on their part.

hsa's destroy the pool. the whole idea of insurance is that the cost of premiums collected will cover the cost of the payments made and leave a profit for the insurance company. by encouraging all the people who don't get sick / don't use their insurance into HSA's, there is no way the pool will be big enough. Once again, another us vs them war. What are we going to do with even more sick people that don't have insurance?

Oh, that's right. who cares as long as *my* bill is low.

insurance,

You're right about the idea of insurance being that the cost of premiums cover the cost of claims + profit, but if people are smarter with how they spend their claims (shopping around for less expensive medicines, using generics if they work for you, visiting the doctor when you really need to), that helps the "claims" part of that equation go down, which should, in theory, lower prices.

In the end, the problem is that the gov't is too involved with insurance as it is.

Insurance said: "by encouraging all the people who don't get sick / don't use their insurance into HSA's, there is no way the pool will be big enough."

Why should I have to pay for someone else's health care? Why should someone else have to pay for MY health care? That kind of thinking is exactly the type of thinking that will (unfortunately) lead to socialized health care in this country.

Companies in search of a profit will find a way to make health care pay for itself. If they can't do that, they won't stay in business and someone will come along who can figure it out.

Problems arise and costs get out of control when the government gets involved and regulates what an industry can and cannot do. Without government interference, prices reflect their true market value (which should keep going down due to innovation and competition - things that are nonexistent within government).

JJ, the point of insurance is that you ARE supposed to help pay for others healthcare, just the same way that they pay for you when you have a problem. Sometimes you end up with a $100,000 surgery and others pick up your tab, other times the same happens to someone else and you pick up their tab. What you are proposing is completely getting rid of insurance altogether, which isn't even an option.

I'm not proposing getting rid of insurance at all. Health insurance is a great thing. Like you said, if I need a $100,000 surgery, my insurance kicks in and pays for a large majority of that service, which is what I pay them for. I'm proposing that HSAs encourage people to make smarter choices and better choices with their health care and money. I'm also proposing that the government gets out of health care (whether by controlling or just regulating it).

What I am opposed to is encouraging/forcing people to pay more money than they need to for health care. An HSA is attached to a high deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The state pays the deductible for one of the HSA options for state employees. All it does is encourages people to save their money, put it in an HSA to be used for qualified medical expenses, and pay for their medical expenses out of that account. The HDHP that state employees have essentially covers 80% of expenses after a certain amount is reached, then pays for 100% of everything after a Maximum out of pocket is reached, just like a standard plan does. The difference is that you have started your own safety net in the HSA that you can bring with you when you leave your current job.

So, rather than paying $300 a month for a premium, then paying my co-pays out of my checking account, every month I'm putting money into my HSA. When I do need to visit the doctor or get a prescription, I use the money in the HSA to pay for it rather than money out of my checking account. The insurance company still gets their monthly premium (via the state/your employeer/you, of you have an individual plan) in case a big claim occurs, but you handle the smaller things (doctor's visits, prescriptions, etc).

Does that make sense?

Clearly JJ doesn't have any great need for medical care or prescription drugs. Otherwise, he or she would know that $3600 a year won't even come close to paying for most of the current medications. I have IBD, asthma and thyroiditis. Just the cost of the two monthly medications for the ulcerative colitis alone is over $300. Add on the Singulair and Synthroid and it tops $500/month. Yep, just four medications, two of which are generic. Add into that semi-annual visits to an internist, a G/I doctor, an allergist and an endocrinologist. You better hope and pray you maintain your present good health because with the HSA, you can't afford much more than the flu!

Do you honestly trust insurance companies to do what is right for the individual. The primary focus of the insurance industry today is to figure out how to avoid paying for anything that they can in order to improve their bottom line. That is true for health insurance, property insurance, car insurance...Look at how State Farm and others treated homeowners after Katrina...they even rigged the engineering reports to conclude damage was from storm surge rather than wind to avoid paying. Anthem, Humana and the other health insurers spend a huge amount of time and money looking for ways to screw their policy holders if god forbid they actually get sick and need to draw upon their insurance. The movie Sicko really exposed how screwed up free market health care is in this country. Before demutualization, insurance companies were owned by their policy holders and the incentive was to provide good service at a reasonable cost and not to enrich the insurance company executives.

The State's only HSA option is no winner either. The earnings rate on funds held in the state HSA accounts is below 2% so the bank if lending these funds at 7%+ and screwing the account holders who have no other option for investing their money. My brother's HSA interest earnings are usually less than the account maintenance fee.

To 9:47am, who inquired about the state workers using twice on average of what other sectors use, that statement and information came DIRECTLY from State Personnel in the form of a mass email several years ago. Feel free to contact State Personnel and I'm sure they will provide you the information or at least point you in the right direction. Don't shoot the messenger as the assertion came from the findings of the state's insurance carriers based on factual and empirical evidence, not myself.

Furthermore, the state rates are about the lowest you'll find with the exception of educators. Get a job in the private sector and I can guarantee you that rates will be much higher in just about every situation.

Additionally, simply look at the demographics of Indiana as a whole: 4th in the country in obesity rates (an obesity rate of 65-70% depending upon which information you read) and we're in the top 5 nationally for smoking rates at an average of around 25% and you'll see why rates have gone up not just for state workers, but other sectors too. There's a reason Mitch is pushing InShape Indiana so much!

Finally, look at the demographics of state workers and I think you'll find that, on average, the state probably has an older workforce than other sectors, which has definitely contributed to the higher rates as well.

I am also a former employee of the state and most of you missed the point entirely about the atmosphere of the office after the new Commissioner took office. You seem to think that the employee was 'unfit' or something to that effect. I can tell you that we were all told that we were expected to put in a minimum of 60 hours per week, and if we disagreed with that, to leave. The Commissioner of which she/he is speaking throws temper tantrums during which he actually throws things at people, he screams, thinks every young pretty woman in the office is there for his 'pleasure' and sweeps sexual harrassment complaints under the rug. Yes, healthcare costs in the agency skyrocketed. There were five or six breakdowns, too many heart attacks to count, three instances where the employee simply dropped dead!!! It is very hard to work for someone who is mentally ill, and those of us who are skilled practitioners in the field of mental health recognized his illnesses almost immediately. Before you start thinking those breakdowns were nervous secretaries, back up my friend, they were all men at the highest levels (Directors, Superintendents, etc.) Most of the women were afraid to be absent for any reason as that was reason enough to fire you. Most of the people who fought their terminations, won their suits because they were fired without cause. Usually just because he didn't like the way you looked or he was just in a bad mood. The woman who stood up to his and his friends sexual advances, was fired and escorted out by ISP. She could live without ever working again on her settlement, and she earned every penny of it! She was hired to do a job for which she was not trained, had no experience and was supposed to simply follow him around looking good. When she began to try to earn her salary (which was pretty good) she began to find out that she was being paid to lie for him and to keep people from finding out about the horrible number of people dying under this man's control. She found out more than she wanted to know and could not live with the lies she was told to give to the public. Does that make the people in this agency "unfit to work anywhere"? The only people who are still working there are the ones who could not get a job elsewhere and were willing to bow at his feet, worshiping him. The quality is gone. By the way, I hope you are thin, because that will be the next thing to be attacked. You will pay a premium if you are overweight, even if you have never been sick a day. The 'little men who must shop in the boy's department' will put that into effect AFTER the election....if they are still in power. Mitch...he is definitely not my man!

10:57 posts about a Commissioner who, shall we say, ran amok. Who is it? Pray tell, if it's so bad in that agency, tell us so that no one makes the mistake of working there.

Really, if it's so bad, share, please. And, if it's so bad and this Commissioner is engaged in illegal behavior, then report him to the Inspector General. What's that you say, "he won't do anything?" If you haven't filed the report, you won't know. If you did file the report and nothing was done, then get a lawyer because, assuming everything you wrote is true, it's a serious problem that needs to be addressed and this Commissioner ought to be fired. As well, if this person truly has a mental illness, as you have described (after all, you are a self-proclaimed practitioner in the field of mental illness), then good God, man, do something to get this person some help! How can you just sit by while this goes on when he could be a danger to others? And please, don't say, "we're afraid to report it." If you don't report it and he truly injures someone (which, as a skilled practitioner in the field of mental illness, you probably are aware of what sort of actions this person's mental illness can cause), how will you feel then? Good God, report this person if it's so bad and if he truly has a mental illness. After all, as a skilled practitioner in the field of mental illness, don't you want him to get help?

I can't tell from your note, but the implication is that this person is still the Commissioner. Am I correct on that?

I'm sorry if I seem doubtful of your claims - they certainly could be 100% true and accurate, but something just doesn't add up here. I would think a mental health professional would have tried to take appropriate steps in regards to a person they believed had a true mental illness. Now, if you've done that, then I'm sorry for doubting you. But really, in reading your posting, something (to me, anyway) doesn't add up.

AR

4:33 - I did mention in a previous post that the HSA plan works great FOR ME. You are right. I'm not someone who requires a lot of medical care at this point in my life. However, looking at your situation, you'd probably come out about even whether you chose the HSA or the standard HMO. It's essentially a choice of pay now (premiums) or pay when you get sick (HSA). Plus, once you reach your out of pocket maximum (different for family plans and individual plans) the HDHP attached to the HSA picks up 100% of your medical expenses, including prescriptions, doctor's visits and anything else that comes up. If you spend $500 a month, you'd reach your OOP max in 6 months.

Like I said it's a personal choice and different plans work better for different people, I'd just rather actually HAVE that choice than have a gov't funded (i.e. taxpayer funded) health care plan where there is no choice or incentive to provide good service.

Y Waste: "The State's only HSA option is no winner either. The earnings rate on funds held in the state HSA accounts is below 2% so the bank if lending these funds at 7%+ and screwing the account holders who have no other option for investing their money. My brother's HSA interest earnings are usually less than the account maintenance fee."

There are at least two different options for the HSA, you can invest in a lower-interest rate account with no monthly charges or a higher-interest rate account with a small monthly charge. The more money in your HSA, the higher interest rate you'll earn on your money.

HSA vs. the Anthem Traditional II plan is basically a question of who you want to bear the burden if something bad happens. If you have an emergency or have surgery (my husband has to have a major one; from a sports injury, before someone thinks we're fat and unhealthy), you'll get a bill. On Trad II, that bill will be $500. On HSA/HDHP, that bill will be $4,000 or so, depending on what it's for. If I lost my job, or if my husband lost his job, we'd be stuck paying that bill. The burden of the payment is on us, and we can be sent to collections if we don't pay. I'd rather make my $300/month payments to Anthem for Traditional than worry about sending that $300/month to my HSA and hope by the end of the year that no one loses their job and we have to figure out how to pay this massive hospital bill when we need to make sure we have money to pay the mortgage.

Essentially, HSAs put the burden on individuals, and for those with very low incomes, like a majority of State employees, that burden can be too much to bear. Insurance should be just that - insurance.

JJ - it's also a question of "do you have any savings right now to pay for a large bill that comes all at once, or pay for large amounts of medication until you reach the OOP max?" A friend who is an AA here either has to hope she can pay the $500/month for the asthma meds for her spouse or cover the $300/mo for Trad II, and she can't do either one, really. So she went with the HSA, hoping to stretch it until the OOP kicks in, and I have a feeling she's going to go broke.

If you don't believe me, try this article from the Washington Post. It articulates the issue better than I can.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/17/AR2005101701285.html

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