Time ticking, concerns grow over state benefit plan - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Time ticking, concerns grow over state benefit plan

November 3, 2005

Albany- Time is running out for teachers and state employees to sign up for the state's new health care program as concern grows over the service they'll receive. Higher out of pocket costs and a limited network of doctors, that's what workers will get from a new state insurance plan.

Four hundred angry and concerned teachers packed the gym at Albany's Robert Cross School to complain about the state's new health care program.

"They really feel that there is an incomplete pool of providers and want an extension of time so this can be worked out," said Peggy Nielson, State Board of Ed. Member.

Many south Georgia doctors don't accept United HealthCare's coverage. Phoebe Putney isn't part of the network. It's the only Albany hospital that delivers babies. Teacher Tiffanie McClurg is pregnant.

"It's very concerning, especially when we were told Phoebe wasn't in the network and to have it covered we'd have to go to Columbus or Thomasville, which if everything goes right we're going to have to drive that far, imagine if something goes wrong," said Tiffanie McClurg, Westover Teacher.

Lee County teacher Yvonne Adams just found out she has breast cancer. She worries she'll have to travel hours for treatment.

"I've been told I can have this kind of treatment and work, it only takes 15 minutes to have the treatment, but if I have to drive two or three hours to get the treatment there will be no way I can work. My family will suffer, my students will suffer and I don't know what to do," said Yvonne Adams.

"We're talking about a primary care physician, whose experience in the past with United HealthCare has been so bad that they say they just will not deal with them anymore period," said Larry Hysler, a Lee Co. Teacher.

"We want to be certain that we all understand this is a state issue. There are providers all over Georgia that will have to re-negotiate contracts all along the way," said Nielson.

Many teachers and retirees haven't even received the information to sign up. A frightening thought, since the deadline to register is four o'clock Tuesday.

"The paperwork, I've not had the opportunity to even go online to select the insurance, kind of insurance that I want," said Freddie Powell-Sims, Jackson Heights Teacher and State Representative.

Thursday, Governor Sonny Perdue said he expects the state to reach a deal that would allow state employees to use their current hospitals and doctors. The sign up deadline may also be extended. United HealthCare is still negotiating with Phoebe Puntey Memorial Hospital.

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