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Rogers looks to trim states health care costs
Georgia is first with compact law
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The General Assembly passed the 2012 budget last week, but state lawmakers are still looking for ways to trim costs.

On one of the final days of the 2011 legislative session, Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, introduced a resolution to investigate the state's health benefit plan. It was approved April 14, the last day of the session.

House Resolution 810 created the House State Health Insurance Plan Alternative Funding Study Committee, which will look into insurance and health care plans available for state employees.

"With as many state employees and retirees that are funded by this state, we need to look at the $250 million shortfall going into the new budget year," Rogers said. "No one has ever really looked at the state health benefit plan or alternative methods of insurance, and we need to know the options out there."

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, will appoint a committee of five members who will meet five or six times before December.

"Our third party administrator does as well as they can do based on what they get paid," Rogers said. "But we need to eliminate some cost factors and get a plan in place because this is funded by state dollars."

Rogers pulled support from several legislators, including House Appropriations Committee chairman Terry England, R-Auburn. He signed onto the bill, as well as Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun; Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro; Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah; and Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta.

"The expenses continue to grow year after year after year," England said. "We need to see if we can find a way to do it more efficiently or cost effectively."

England, who spent most of the 2011 session dealing with the 2012 budget, looks forward to hearing changes proposed by the committee.

"At the last minute we were dealing with this shortfall in health benefits," he said. "We need to find the cash to fix it and get a handle on what is
running up the costs so much and why it takes more each year to fund it."

State lawmakers are looking at health care changes and costs across the board. On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 461, which allows states to work together on health care through a legal compact.

The measure could make it possible for the state to avoid implementation of the federal health care law, but any compact requires congressional approval.

Similar ideas have been introduced in 12 states, and Georgia is the first state with a health care compact signed as law. Arizona is the only other state where compact legislation passed both chambers.

The federal health care law requires every state to run a health care exchange for individuals and small businesses to shop for health coverage, and most Americans must have health insurance by 2014.

Deal pushed a bill that would begin planning for an exchange, and it had wide support from health care providers, the insurance industry and consumer advocates.

However, Deal pulled the bill off the agenda this year after tea party activists raised objections to it. Lawmakers will consider it again during the 2012 legislative session.


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