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Healthy State tells the stories you need to know to stay well, with a special focus on Florida.We'll bring you the latest fitness trends, new research on preventing and treating disease, and information about how health policy impacts your pocketbook.We report on health using all the tools at our disposal -- video, audio, photos and text -- to bring these stories to life.Healthy State is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at wusfnews.org.

State Workers Wonder About Provider Changes During Enrollment

USF Tampa benefits fair on Tuesday, Oct. 20 in Tampa
Lottie Watts
USF Tampa benefits fair on Tuesday, Oct. 20 in Tampa

It's open enrollment time for many people who have health insurance through their job, and Florida’s state employees are among those who are thinking about making changes to their plans.

Monthly premiums for health insurance plans through employers, on average, went up about 4 percent in 2014, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Monthly premiums for Florida's state workers are holding steady again this year. But workers are becoming more aware of other health expenses, according Lydia Hudson, who works for health insurance company AvMed.

"As co-payments or consumer responsibility or their cost sharing has increased, they're now asking more questions,” Hudson said. “They know that if I do this, I can pay this amount. If I go to urgent care versus going to a hospital for an ER, my cost is a little less."

The deadline to switch plans is Friday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m.

Shabnam Mehra has worked for the University Of South Florida for 19 years, and has insurance through the state. She attended a benefits fair on Tuesday at USF in Tampa.  She said she pays close attention to changes in the doctors her and her family can see.

"Getting that at least 6 to 7 months before would be helpful, to plan,” Mehra said. “When the changes come in the coverage and you don't know who the providers are going to be, just before when you have to sign up, it's hard."

She said the plan offered through her husband’s private-sector job is much more expensive than the insurance she has a state employee.

Florida’s state employees pay $50 a month for individual coverage, or $180 a month for their family.

According to the latest Employer Health Benefits Survey from Kaiser, individual enrollees who get insurance through an employer paid an average of $90 a month in 2014, while family premiums averaged $413 a month. In 2010, on average, individual premiums were $75 a month and family plans were $333 a month.

A proposal from state Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, that would have increased premiums for some of the state's employees failed during Florida's last legislative session.  He told Health News Florida he plans to reintroduce changes to state worker health coverage during the 2016 legislative session.

It cost the state about $1.5 billion in 2013 to cover more than 300,000 state employees and their families.

Lottie Watts is a producer/reporter with WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  

Copyright 2015 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Lottie Watts was our Florida Matters producer from 2012 to 2016. She also covers health and health policy for WUSF's Health News Florida .
Lottie Watts
Lottie Watts covers health and health policy for Health News Florida, now a part of WUSF Public Media. She also produces Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show.