Teachers rally against state insurance changes
by Michelle Babcock
January 04, 2014 11:30 PM | 21480 views | 28 28 comments | 38 38 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.”
Comments
(28)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Johnmon99
|
January 09, 2014
This Is called obamacare. We are all going through these changes guys. You get bronze silver gold, and it is the law of the land till you die. If you voted for Obama, than u have nothing to complain about.

As a business owner and provider of healthcare I would say I had a pretty solid grasp of what is going on. My insurance broker has informed me our rates will skyrocket with the employer mandate in 2014' and those cost will be passed on to our employees.

Welcome to the club teachers.
Concerned Georgian
|
January 09, 2014
I was the Division Director for the SHBP beginning in 1999. At that time BCBSGA was the third party administrator for the SHBP. We went out for bid to develop the first PPO offering for the SHBP recipients. BCBSGA was very difficult to deal with not only for the recipients but for those of us in Administration. I am shocked that the State would once again strike a deal with BCBSGA with all the problems we encountered at that time.

I would be interested in discussing the current issues with anyone involved with TRAGIC Group. I believe I might be of some help in assisting you with your current dilemma.

Please leave me a message on this site so I may contact you,
SLEdwards
|
January 07, 2014
This doesn't effect only teachers. ALL state employees & state retirees need to be included. I am a retired state of GA probation officer & I am encountering the same problems with the state insurance program. I am interested in getting involved with this group. The governor & legislators have no shame. Who is voting for these clowns anyway? I pay my taxes & I pay for my insurance like everyone else. This is not an entitlement.
Buddy Templeton
|
January 06, 2014
We had United previously. Minimal co-pay and great coverage. Now, we have to pay almost double what we were paying and less coverage. I am in need ot corrective shoulder surgery and am unsure as to whether or not insurance will cover any of it.

Rebecca Johnston
|
January 06, 2014
Editor's Note: The TRAGIC group’s Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/TRAGIC4GEORGIA/ or by typing “Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes (T.R.A.G.I.C.)” into the search bar at the top of the www.facebook.com website.

teddybear241
|
January 06, 2014
Thank you!
teddybear241
|
January 06, 2014
I can't find page on FB. How is it listed? I live in south GA. I am a para-pro in our school and my husband is a teacher. Thanks!
Jackie Anderson
|
January 06, 2014
I would like to join the facebook group, but I can't find the group. Is it listed under something other than TRAGIC? Thanks
jawgadude
|
January 05, 2014
Wait until you try to do the mandatory "wellness" stuff. Very intrusive... Lots of emotional/psychological questions that are no one's business. Plus you have to go thru coaching by phone from case workers who know less than you do. If they can't find a medical reason for the coaching sessions, they'll make you do something stupid like working on keeping appointments better. (Yes that is an actual module) They also want you to keep a journal about your health and participate in social media exchanges about your health. This entire wellness system is overly intrusive and of limited value.
Mark Glaubitz
|
January 06, 2014
Pepsi Cola has used the "wellness" method (as have many companies), and I have disliked it intensely for all the reasons you mentioned. Every year there seems to be some new requirement or hoop to jump through. This year our family deductible is 2500, which is ridiculous.
Janelle Smith
|
January 05, 2014
I am a retired teacher. I went to the pharmacy today to pick up my Lyrica which I take for Fibromyalgia pain. I was informed that they refused to pay for it because it wasn't on their list. They said it costs $350. Why am I paying a premium & then have to pay for my medication which I take for pain?? I have to have my meds. for pain.
Mark Glaubitz
|
January 06, 2014
Have you tried gabapentin (generic for Gralise, or Trazadone)? It has stronger side effects for some people, but these usually fade with use. Generic gabapentin is pretty cheap too.
Tragic Logic
|
January 05, 2014
It is pretty clear from reading the posts that this is a left leaning group. They won't allow their posters to mention Obamacare but have no problem bashing Governor Deal. When one person pointed to Obamacare they quickly tried to hush that person up by saying they were apolitical and then mere moments later someone is bashing the Governor and that was fine.

Exactly Right
|
January 06, 2014
TRAGIC is just another group of complaining teachers whose main interest is dipping into taxpayers' pocketbooks. They reveal their leftist leanings in their quick insistence that "It's not the fault of ObamaCare", even though ObamaCare CLEARLY has an effect on everyone's healthcare plans.

Same old song & dance.

To paraphrase their hero, former Board Chairman Mike Chapman:

"If you don't like it, you can just get a job in the private sector!"
Exactly Wrong
|
January 07, 2014
Just another Tea Bagging Cherokee County teacher hater. Face it - teachers have been getting screwed under Governor Deal's 'leadership' (if you can call it that). 2008 came and went, and the economy is steadily improving. 2/3 of Georgia's public school systems still have FURLOUGH days - way to go, Republicans! You've really learned how to save a buck on the backs of teachers and CHILDREN! Well guess what... not anymore! It's an election year, and I would have guessed that Governor Raw Deal would have been smart enough not to tick off one of the largest groups in the STATE. VOTE DEAL OUT IN 2014!
Exactly Right
|
January 07, 2014
Laughable. Only an Obama lover thinks this phony, propped-up economy is "steadily improving". Go back to Facebook and tell your buddies how great ObamaCare is and how mean those old Republicans are.

Hey, wasn't the hero of teachers Brandon Beach supposed to be the Savior of Education? Whatever happened to that guy, after he snookered all the teachers into voting for him?
April Coker
|
January 05, 2014
Thank God Ms. Cline for having the courage to do this. I have said that if all the employees and retired employees would stand up and say forget this..we are not going to take this anymore. Good change would come. Yes it is an excuse escape goat for Obomacare. My husbands has driven a bus for 18 years so that our family of five could have health insurance.

TRAGIC..what a perfect name. We live in Ashburn..South Georgia where the demographics for poor rural

healthcare has been established for many years. I am a

chronic person who take 36 RX a day. Over half of this I either take twice a day. Some three to five. I have never been a fan of HRA. A tier one drug is 20 to 50 bucks. Totally insane. Tier 2 50 to 100 bucks. I don't dare want to talk about the other tiers. Beside I won't be able to afford my meds if that money applied to the deductible and stop loss the lemon might not taste as sour. But the money for meds does not help meet crap....we have always had the muddle plan or the best plan. Last year we paid dearly ;but had a good plan. This year there was no doubt in my mind we should take the bronze. The cheapest premium one. So at least we could allow the saving money to be allocated to a fund where it looks like I will be buying my meds from Canada. Tragic...alright.. I started calling BCBSweeks ago. They would answer and iimmediately hang up. Which did not surprise me. I wanted information to see if my drugs would be paid for since they are all considered maintenance drugs. They cannot tell me nor can express scripts. I was told just send in the RX and we will let you know what the price will be after the fact. Don't think so. I am not going to bend over on purpose. I went to Apple Care yesterday and should have had to pay nothing since those few little HRA dollars were in our account. Nope had to give AppleCare a 100.00 check because they could not see the HRA dollars in there. We are all getting screwed because of Obomacare. I can say this because I am an insurance agent and I have seen this coming the last 3 years. I sell all kinds of insurance but mainly help the 65 and over and people on disability understand Medicare Advantage. My pay there has dropped from 417 if they were aging in to 16.97 or if the plan was being changed 207.00 now 16.97.

I spends hours and hours getting people anything I can. So many people here in my town live off of 600.00 a month. Some people do not understand. I may have 15 hours involved in one case. Now Obama wants to bail out the insurance companies. Is there something wrong with this picture..yes TRAGIC. The people who have paid into the medicare system just watched 719 Billion dollars. My point is and I could go on and on is this is just the tip of the iceberg if we don't ban together and to something we will soon be the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean where all those lives were lost. The plan is to get rid of the old and weak. Thank you again for starting this. This has got to stop. May God Bless US and Keep Us during this TRAGIC situation. Sorry if there are any misspells or words left out. I am on my phone typing this and it would not let me go back and read.
Rick S
|
January 05, 2014
I have a young relative that decided to work for a year before starting college. He is working as bagger at a chain grocery store. His healthcare plan at this grocery store cost him ten dollars and twenty cents per week or about forty-one dollars per month. The co-pay for a doctor's visit is fifteen dollars with his plan. Both of his parents are teachers and they are amazed at the $15 co-pay. Something is wrong, I have the feeling some deals were made very high up in state government and somebody is getting very rich. Why are 650,000 state employees paying such high deductibles and the full price of medical services until the deductible is met and then the "gold plan" will pay 85% of the cost. One major procedure could sink many teacher families. It has been years since anyone received a cost of living raise, in fact furlough days are still in effect for almost all school system. There really is a war against the middle class.
General Sherman
|
January 05, 2014
Georgia's Insurance Commissioner vowed publicly that he would kill Obamacare any way he could -- and is doing so with the fellow Republican creep who is our Governor. Georgia REFUSED to participate in any health-care exchange, so, THAT is why you have one crummy choice (thank your Republican/Tea Party/Palin-idiot legislators).

While Obamacare is a botched multibillion-dollar-windfall for Insurance companies (insurance companies should have been dissolved and replaced with single-payer...gee, all those Tea-Partiers gladly grab single-payer Medicare benefits!), it is the first step toward getting out of the backwardness our country has been mired in (and the South moronically bathes in every day).

The insurance lobbyists got their payoff after the pols got theirs.

General Sherman
|
January 05, 2014
Georgia's Insurance Commissioner vowed publicly that he would kill Obamacare any way he could -- and is doing so with the fellow Republican creep who is our Governor. Georgia REFUSED to participate in any health-care exchange, so, THAT is why you have one crummy choice (thank your Republican/Tea Party/Palin-idiot legislators).

While Obamacare is a botched multibillion-dollar-windfall for Insurance companies (insurance companies should have been dissolved and replaced with single-payer...gee, all those Tea-Partiers gladly grab single-payer Medicare benefits!), it is the first step toward getting out of the backwardness our country has been mired in (and the South moronically bathes in every day).

The insurance lobbyists got their payoff after the pols got theirs.

Mattie Mae
|
January 05, 2014
Isn't this group a little to late?? It's like closing the barn door after the horse got out? This group should have been formed when they could have made some changes.
Mr. Ed
|
January 06, 2014
They were too busy SCRAMMING and Facebooking to pay attention.
anonymous
|
January 06, 2014
It's late because like she said (had you read the full article) that the information for the plans was not visible until only a day or two before open enrollment. Not just the health plans but the plans for any and all coverage through the state. That is an insane amount of information to be given at one time not to mention on top of the 60-70 hour work weeks and other stuff going on since it was given while we needed to have our attention on the schools. The only time left to look at it and really read the fine print was when we could finally take our attention from our work.

Plus I really don't understand the political comments. Who cares whose fault it is? The point is that it is the worst plan I or anyone in my family has seen and is not doing anything but hurting the employees and families.
Debby Morgan
|
January 05, 2014
I am retired and realized on my Jan paycheck no medical deduction was made. I called and they said I was dropped! After a long phone call and to several people, they finally said it was their mistake. The only comment was a lot of people are confused about the new insurance. If you had not brought this to my attention, I would have no idea! Thanks!
Patty 97
|
January 05, 2014
This is the 5th of January, so how did you already get a paystub?
Timing
|
January 09, 2014
The check was likely dated dec 31 -- the insurance gets deducted a month prior, so the premium for January came out of the check issued in December-- which may have arrived first week of January if it is mailed to her.
Cynthia Karsten
|
January 05, 2014
It is TRAGIC what is happening to all of us and our families! Join the group on Face Book and read the many, and I do mean many stories of what's happening to us all! Awareness is the first step to getting something done!

Thank you
Karen Martin
|
January 05, 2014
Georgia insurance for teacher has been TRAGIC forever. I do not need major medical so I get nothing at all. Which means the teacher next door who gets the supplement is making more money than I am. I have taught in another state where you had options for your state money. Not in Georgia you are cheated and get nothing.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, spam, and links to outside websites will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides