State employees plead for health benefit extension - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State employees plead for health benefit extension

November 17, 2005

Albany- With the deadline to enroll less than 24 hours away, state employees' final plea for help with the state's new health benefit plan may have fallen on deaf ears. State employees must enroll in the state's new health plan by five o'clock Friday, November 18.

An announcement from Governor Sonny Perdue's office about changes did little to ease fears. The Governor's office brought this letter, it's signed by United HealthCare's CEO and removes three obstacles that many doctors say prevented them from signing onto the network. The Governor's office wants people to sign up in faith that doctors will sign on as well. State employees say that's faith they don't have.

Hundred of teachers, retirees, and state employees packed the Albany High School Auditorium looking for answers they say they're not getting.

"The comfort level is just not there and the fact that the mishandling of this, I'm not comfortable with this," said Sara Lee Crumbs of Edison.

Uncomfortable, even after a new agreement with the state removed three major hurdles that kept many south Georgia doctors and hospitals from signing on with United HealthCare.

"The Governor's office is guaranteeing that we're going to have a network by January, but we have to sign up tomorrow. So, we're signing up tomorrow with no pediatricians, no gynecologists, no anything, but I'm going to be paying $300 a month for it," questioned Susan Hill, a Teacher.

Representatives from United HealthCare said they understand the concerns and promised to address the misinformation over what doctors are in the network on their website.

"That will most likely have three categories, doctors we are presently talking to, doctors who have signed a contract and doctors who have completed credentialing," said Catherine Palmier M.D., United HealthCare Chief Medical Officer.

State employees still want an open enrollment extension to guarantee United will follow through on the expansion of the network in southwest Georgia.

"The plan Thursday is that there will be a five o'clock deadline Friday in terms of enrollment and that's where we stand," said John Watson, Gov. Perdue Chief of Staff.

"We're in active negotiations on a daily bases with Phoebe Putney at this time," said Palmier.

Those who have dealt with United HealthCare in the past remain concerned that those promise may be empty.

"It was not accepted many places, claims were not paid quickly, so that the office ends up sending you a bill, wait a minute what happened to my insurance," said Hill.

"Southwest Georgia is the other Georgia and if they can forget about us they probably will, and I feel that's been the case here," said Crumbs.

Both United HealthCare officials and the Governor's office say they expect the health group to have an agreement with Phoebe soon.  That plan is expected only to include the P.P.O. plan.

Thursday, United HealthCare also agreed to meet with local doctors next week to try to convince more of them to enroll.

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