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Government employees, dependents face insurance premium increases


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Nearly a quarter-million government employees and their dependents face increases in insurance premiums beginning next year.

The Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board and the state Employee Benefits Council set new rates on Friday. Premiums will go up about 9 percent for employees and 14 percent for their spouses on Jan. 1.

The rates are for health insurance purchased by 129,000 active and retired state employees, teachers, local government workers and employees of rural water districts plus their dependents, officials said.

The education and employees group board set rates that will affect about 227,000 employees and dependents, said Hilary Johnston, spokeswoman for the board.

Rates for another 11,000 state employees using health maintenance organizations were set by the Employee Benefits Council on Friday.

Most public employees, including retirees, participate in the HealthChoice High Option plan operated by the state and education employees group insurance board, Johnston said.

Rates for dependent children will range from an 11 percent increase to cover one child to a 14 percent increase for two or more children, she said.

Richard Womack, chairman of the state board, said the board has tried to keep increases as small as possible.

Johnston said the board was able to keep rates lower by subsidizing the plans with $9.5 million from investments.

``We are very fortunate that we had some flexibility and were able to minimally offset premiums this year,'' Womack said. ``This option will not always be a possibility for the plan.''

HMO increases range from 13.37 percent to 23.59 percent.

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