ST. THOMAS — The group health insurance plan for government employees was renewed Monday when the 28

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ST. THOMAS — The group health insurance plan for government employees was renewed Monday when the 28th Legislature ratified the annual agreement.

The plan covers medical, dental, accidental death and dismemberment, life and vision insurance for V.I. government employees through Oct. 1, 2011. The current 2010 plan expires Sept. 30.

According to testimony given at last week’s Committee of the Whole hearing by John Abramson Jr., the chairman of the Government Employees Service Commission, the proposed plan contains a 7.3 percent increase in premiums. Abramson said the increase was negotiated down from the original 13.2 percent increase CIGNA wanted.

The GESC Health Insurance Board of Trustees negotiates the government’s insurance plan. The current carrier for most of the benefits in the package is CIGNA. United Health Care provides the voluntary vision coverage plan for employees.

Several changes to the plan were necessary to comply with recently passed federal health care reforms. The changes eliminate the $3 million lifetime maximum benefit; the 90-day pre-existing conditions limitation for dependents younger than 19 years old; and limits on mental health and substance abuse treatment. Also, coverage for dependents will be extended until age 26.

The government’s renewal agreement also will restore coverage for certain bariatric surgeries. Reimbursement for out-of-network coverage has been redefined in the agreement, limiting the payment to 150 percent of the Medicare allowance.

The dental plan’s premiums will increase by 10 percent, but the benefits will remain unchanged.

Life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance benefits and plan costs will not change in 2011.

The rates for the voluntary vision plan offered by United Health Care will decrease by 12 percent starting Oct. 1. The plan covers thousands of V.I. government employees and retirees and their families, as well as employees and retirees of the University of the Virgin Islands, V.I. Port Authority, Frederiksted Health Center and St. Thomas East End Medical Center.

The government entered into a five-year agreement with CIGNA in 2006, and an annual renewal of that agreement must be negotiated by the GESC board and ratified by the V.I. Senate each year. Fiscal Year 2011 is the last year of the agreement, and the GESC board will put the contract for the government’s insurance coverage out to bid in the coming year.

 Increases for medical and dental coverage per biweekly paycheck would be as follows:

•    For a single employee, the rate would increase $6.76, from $87.87 to $94.63.

•    For family medical and dental coverage, the rate would increase $12.10, from $154.80 to $166.90.

•    For single retirees who are younger than 65, the rate would increase $6.76, from $87.87 to $94.63.

•    For retirees under 65 with families also under 65, the rate would increase $12.23, from $157.68 to $169.91.

•    For single retirees older than 65, the rate would increase $1.67, from $40.13 to $41.80.

•    Retirees older than 65 with families older than 65, the rate would increase $3.03, from $67.21 to $70.24.

The only senators opposed were Usie Richards, Celestino White Sr. and Alvin Williams Jr. Sen. Adlah Donastorg Jr. was absent.

— Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-8772 ext. 311 or e-mail

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