Nevada employee insurance program got bad rap

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Pew Charitable Trusts has revised a report on state employee health insurance benefits to show Nevada's program is better than originally stated and generally in line with national averages.

The original report released Aug. 12 suggested Nevada state employees must pay a significantly larger share of their health insurance premiums than their counterparts in other states.

The revised report sent to the state for review earlier this month now says Nevada employees cover about 18 percent of their premiums with the state covering 82 percent. The average among all states is 16 percent for an employee.

Trust officials said the original report complied in conjunction with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation was in error when it estimated Nevada workers paid 26 percent of the costs. It says the flawed numbers were the result of inaccurate estimations of enrollment in the program based on U.S. Census statistics in the Milliman Atlas of Public Employer Health Plans.

James Wells, executive officer of Nevada's Public Employees Benefits Program, complained to the authors about the report the day after it was released and provided what he said were the accurate statistics.

"The report is getting a lot of press nationwide," Wells told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We didn't want anything out there that was wrong."

Matt McKillop, senior associate for Pew's state health care spending project, said the revised numbers are "very consistent" with the calculations Wells had provided in most of more than a dozen categories. "Many are exactly the same, and the rest are very close," McKillop said.

The original study incorrectly indicated Nevada was one of only 11 states where employees covered at least one-fourth of the cost of their premium last year. In reality, the state covers 82 percent of state employee premiums on average.

By comparison, Hawaii requires state employees to cover 42 percent of premium costs. Workers in North Carolina must pay 38 percent and Louisiana 33 percent, the study said.

At the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota and Ohio cover all premiums for individual employees. Alaska and Iowa pay 97 percent, and nine other states cover at least 90 percent — Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

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