Legislators are looking at reworking state employee health insurance with an eye to providing the same, or even better, benefits

while saving cash at the same time.

In fact, said House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, state employees who voluntarily choose a more cost efficient heath care plan could save themselves up to $700 a year.

The issue is a bit complicated. But House Republicans were told Thursday that state workers' health care this time around will not end up with the forced retirement option of a few years ago. In fact, it will be just the opposite, as state workers' health care benefits will not diminish and they may well save themselves some money.

Utah state government has a very good health care plan — called PEHP — which most workers select. But they can also pick two other alternatives, one that uses Intermountain HealthCare hospitals and doctors one that uses another set of hospitals in the state. Both of the non-PEHP plans cost less, said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, an insurance agent who has become the insurance expert in the House.

Currently, the state pays a flat percent of each plans' cost. And since PEHP costs more, in essence workers using that plan are being subsidized by workers signed up in the IHC and the non-IHC alternatives.

Clark said the state is encouraging most state employees — which include legislators — to stay in the less-cost-effective PEHP plan is encouraging those with the most health difficulties to use the least cost effective alternative.

Dunnigan said if a worker got off of the PEHP plan, which costs the worker $78 a month, and switches to a plan that costs the worker only $20, then both the worker and the state would save money.

Clark said in rough terms, if the state gave each worker a 3 percent raise this year, and the savings could be found in health care, the worker could actually get a 4 percent raise.

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