Area teachers rally against Ga. insurance plan
by Michelle Babcock
January 04, 2014 11:32 PM | 13871 views | 7 7 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The wife of a Cherokee County teacher is leading a statewide group against changes to the state employee health insurance plans that took effect Wednesday.

Within less than three days of being created, the group to bring awareness of 2014 changes in insurance for teachers and other state employees had already surpassed 1,600 members.

The group, “Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes,” or TRAGIC, was created Thursday morning by Canton resident Ashley Cline, whose husband is a teacher in Cherokee County.

“I had no idea this would take off like a train,” Cline said Friday. “It’s spreading across the state. It started in mostly Cherokee, then we got some people from Cobb, I saw some from Bartow, we had a woman post last night from south (Georgia), in Valdosta.”

Cline said the health insurance changes to the State Health Benefit Plan for 2014, offered to state employees through the Georgia Department of Community Health, impact all state employees.

“The changes affects basically all state employees, we all have the same insurance — if you’re a teacher, or at a public university system, even retirees. From what I can tell it’s about 650,000 employees and their families,” she said.

Cline said the plan was “sold as a huge savings for taxpayers.” But, she said “if people knew what teachers and state employees were going through, they’d be questioning it.”

“We’re taxpayers, too,” she said. “I’m a Republican, and I understand the need to save, but not on the backs of teachers and state employees.”

Woodstock resident Jennifer Hall, a teacher for more than two decades, said she joined the TRAGIC group immediately after it was created.

“Previously, we’ve always had more than one option,” Hall said. “Now, we have no choice at all.”

Cline said there was always a choice for state employees between different types of health insurance plans from different providers.

“There were HMOs, PPOs, we could’ve done an HRA account. This year, they went to a single-tier system,” Cline said. “We’ve got one company, Blue Cross-Blue Shield.”

Cline said the changes hit her family hard, and many members who’ve joined the TRAGIC group have similar stories, she said.

“We’ve got a 4-year-old daughter in occupational therapy, she’s got special needs, and I’m scared to death,” Cline said. “We’ve been paying out-of-pocket for occupational therapy and we had a $25 co-pay for as long as we can remember. Now, under this new plan I have to pay $130 a week, $1,000 gets me four hours of therapy a month.”

Cline said she’d spent more than 10 hours on the phone with Blue Cross-Blue Shield representatives in the past two weeks, and said “they are just as confused as we are.”

“Everybody’s in the same boat,” Cline said. “I knew we weren’t alone.”

Hall said if there’s a catastrophe, “we’re basically all sunk.”

“There’s no co-pay, you can’t manage your costs. You have to have it all up front,” Hall said.

Cline said the insurance costs for state employees and retirees could get “out of hand” quickly.

“The main issue with the new plan is there’s no more co-pays,” Cline said. “Everything is out-of-pocket up front. Everyone’s got a minimum of a $1,500 deductible, and that’s the $600 a month plan. It’s bad, it’s real bad. And this is a state plan, this affects hundreds of thousands of people.”

The Department of Community Health was unable to be reached for comment by press time.

Cline said the state has been “shady” when it comes to information on the plans, and many people have questions.

“The state promised us, ‘We’ll get you information, we’ll do seminars for you,’” Cline said. “Basically, the information was posted online two days prior to open enrollment, and you’ve got seven days to make an election and read through all these changes.”

Hall said one of the main focuses of the TRAGIC Facebook group online is to help bring information to one location for people who are impacted by the plan.

“It’s for people to share information,” Hall said. “So a lot of it is information and just asking questions.”

But Hall said there is a bigger purpose for the group’s future.

“The bigger focus is trying to affect change, and getting to the state and the governor where all this began,” Hall said. “I think it’s ethically wrong to save a few dollars per taxpayer, on the backs of state employees. The savings to the taxpayer will be negligible compared to our cost.”

Cline said many people are blaming Obamacare, but she thinks that is “just a perfect scapegoat.”

“They thought ‘well, we’ll just change everything and people will blame Obama,’” Cline said. “They didn’t have to do this, they had options.”

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January 22, 2014
Ted Burke, VP of Claims Management, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts

Lea Wierzbicki, Director of Claims Operations, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts

Ann McLaughlin, VP of Claims Management at Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts

On Monday, March 5th, 2012, Henry Young will stop receiving critical rehab treatment, after suffering a severe heart attack last October during which his heart stopped ten times.

His family will be faced with two choices - to either continue treatment and face financial ruin, or to give up on their beloved father and husband. That's because Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is denying coverage for Henry's rehab - treatment that his own neurologist deemed critical to his recovery.

Insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield should not be allowed to cut and run when patients require extended medical care. Henry must continue rehab treatment in order to regain motor and cognitive skills. It's our hope that Blue Cross Blue Shield will review Henry's case and change its decision to deny this critical coverage.

Please, do the right thing. A family is waiting for your answer.

Thank you.
January 20, 2014
Jerry Fletcher, the word is MIRROR, not mirrow. And if you were told the 2014 plan would "mirror" the 2013 plan you were given some very bad information.

Did the written material on plan changes agree with what was discussed in the meetings? Did you bother to read the written material?

We were given information on the changes and it was quite obvious the 2014 plan was different from the 2013 plans. The website links for open enrollment also spelled out the new benefits.

I fail to understand how anyone could read the material and view the new benefits and still insist the 2014 was a "mirrow" of the 2013 plans.
January 08, 2014
Obamacare became "the law of the land" in 2010 but GA teachers are just now realizing their ox is being gored. However noble their gestures may be, their anger is misdirected because they failed to do their homework. The benefit changes this year were telegraphed to anyone who followed the ACA rollout and laid out in full color brochures during the 2013 open enrollment. Apparently few bothered to read their benefit summary until they actually USED the plan. Can you say pop quiz?
Jerry Fletcher
January 20, 2014
In the area meetings on state employees insurance last year we were told the plan for 2014 would MIRROW the plan we had. What a lie! Obamacare has nothing to do with our povider.
January 05, 2014
Hmmmmm we get a stadium no one votes on,we get backdoor tax increases with no votes,county commission school board durning what ever they want running amoak. Nice going Republicans you're durning a great job, Keep votining they way you,re voting!
January 05, 2014
It amazes that so many people on a local, state and national level are actually upset at this onset of Obamacare. Yet, how many of these people supported him for two elections? Please don't tell me you actually believed what he was saying about the ACA? Please don't tell me you actually thought your insurance would be less expensive? I am confused that his supporters are upset. I am confused that so many thought we could actually provide free and subsidized insurance and not think SOMEONE -US, the middle class working public servants (teachers, police, etc.) were not going to take the hit for this. You didn't actually think the 1%ers would pay for this did you? I'd love to shout from the roof top, the proverbial, "I told you so", but it's actually too sad to even think about rubbing in someone's face.
January 07, 2014
So i guess Obama is responsible for building a stadiumn in Cobb county $300 mmillion dollars of tax payers money WITHOUT a vote or perhaps you did get to vote on it.These county employees being forced into a no choice insurance plan. Bluecross of Ga pays off the decision makers,O wait it's freezing out side darn Obama at it again!
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