KHI News Service

State employee health spending $32 million less than expected

But also less use of preventive services

By KHI NEWS SERVICE | December 08, 2010

Doug Farmer, outgoing director of the State Employees' Health Benefit Plan, had good news for his last meeting today with the Kansas Health Care Commission: Spending on state employee health care has been $32 million less than the commission's 2010 projections.

“That’s great news for the fund balance,” and gives the commission more flexibility in planning for 2012, Farmer said.

On the downside, the windfall coincided with a 22 percent drop from 2009 in plan members’ use of preventive services.

Doug Farmer

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“Even though those services are free to our members they’re not (using) preventive services,” Farmer said. “That, to us, is alarming because from those preventive visits come findings and from findings hopefully come solutions,” and lower health care costs in the long run, he said.

Farmer also said the number of people covered by the state employee plan continues to grow steadily, up nearly 3 percent from last year.

“We’ll soon crack the 100,000 covered lives mark for the first time,” he said.

The commission will next meet after the incoming administration of Governor-elect Sam Brownback appoints a new secretary of administration. The secretary chairs the Health Care Commission, which sets policy for the health benefit plan.

Outgoing Secretary of Administration Duane Goossen said he hopes the appointment will be made in January and allow the returning board to meet by the end of the month. Goossen is taking a job as vice president of fiscal and health policy at the Kansas Health Institute.

Farmer is leaving government service for a job at the Sunflower Foundation.

Upon Farmer’s departure Dec. 17, Mike Michael, deputy director of the state employee health plan, will assume the director's responsibilities.