BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - State workers were told to show up at a meeting about health care Monday morning at 9:30, only to be turned away. Some state workers were told "you should've been here hours before the meeting started."
Despite many people's disgust, the CEO of the Office of Group Benefits said the meetings went fine. Long lines of people were waiting outside. Inside a packed auditorium, their colleagues were already listening to how much their deductibles are going up.
Some say it's like rising costs at the grocery store or the gas station - you just have to deal with it. But it is sticker shock for some retired and current state workers.
Crowds of people say they received a letter in the mail, telling them to be at a meeting Monday morning to learn about the new insurance benefits that will be offered in 2015. Some in attendance say they are paying the price for the Governor's plan to cut state expenses, as they will not be shelling out more out of pocket costs for health insurance.
For a while now, state workers have been nervously preparing themselves for rising health care costs. The change is part of the Jindal administration's plan to cut state expenses, while forcing state employees make tough health care decisions.
Around 230,000 people state-wide are being affected by the changes, hence the turnout to hear what their new options are.
Even after sitting in hour-plus meetings on these new plans, some are still confused. Many are left wondering what the benefit is of having health insurance if you can't afford it.
"I'm going to make the best of it. I like the way things were," said state worker Wayne Mire.
Others say this is Louisiana politics at work. The Office of Group Benefits has said they have set up around 40 meetings this month to present the new health care options. There are also web seminars and a call center for questions.
Something else that some people are saying is a big change under the new plans is which hospitals accept the insurance. People say under the old plan, they could go to any hospital. One of the six new plans does not allow that.
"I feel like once they hear and understand better from Office of Group Benefits, they are able to make informed decisions," said Office of Group Benefits CEO Susan West. West also said she thought the meetings went very well.
But for retired employees like Jerri Brown, who sat in one of two overflow rooms, her questions are still unanswered.
"They send you to, tell you to go to the Human Resource Office. We don't have a Human Resource office because our company was closing, privatized."
State workers have until Nov. 30 to pick a new plan. The new health care coverage starts March 1.
Additional meetings are planned for:
Active employees and retirees without Medicare --Oct. 7, Division of Administration, Claiborne Building, LA Purchase Room, 1201 North Third Street at 9:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Retirees with Medicare- Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, Dept. of Public Safety, Training Academy Auditorium, 7901 Independence Boulevard, at 9:30 a.m, 12 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m.