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Facing 15% Health Insurance Cost Increases, Foxwoods and
 Mohegan Sun, Which Employ 11,000 Workers,
  Hiking the Costs to Employees

By Karen Florin, The Day, New London, Conn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Nov. 14, 2003 - For the second time in two years, employee health insurance costs are rising at the region's two casinos. 

Executives at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun said their businesses faced 15 percent insurance cost increases if they did not make the changes. The two casinos, which each employ 11,000 workers, are hiking the costs to employees as of Jan. 1. 

Mohegan Sun will continue to provide health insurance without deducting premiums from worker paychecks, but deductibles, co-payments for visits to doctors, prescriptions and out-of-pocket limits will increase. 

Employees who seek care within the Blue Cross/Blue Shield network will pay deductibles of $100 to $300, depending on how many people are covered by their plan. The casino will pick up 90 percent of the remaining costs until employees reach out-of-pocket limits of $8,500 for a single employee, $1,700 for an employee plus one person and $2,550 for a family. They will pay an additional $5, or $20, for office visits and prescriptions will increase roughly $5, to $15 or $20. Costs for employees who seek care outside of the Blue Cross network also will increase. 

"We did not want to affect the employees on a week-to-week basis," said Kevin Bogle, vice president of human resources. "The employees will continue to receive benefits at no cost. The employees who are using the plan will incur the costs as they use it." 

Foxwoods employees will have a new insurance provider, New York-based Multiplan Inc., as of the beginning of the year. 

The medical treatments available are not changing, according to Joann Frank, senior vice president of human resources. She said co-payments, out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles will increase. Prescriptions, provided through the Mashantucket Pequots' PXRN pharmacy, will remain free. 

"What we're doing is very consistent with what we're seeing in the community," Frank said. We certainly don't want to do anything that's not competitive." 

The goal was to implement changes that will stabilize costs for a couple of years, Frank said. 

"This is not something we want to do every year," she said of the rising costs. 

The casino is making an effort to educate employees to use their medical plans wisely to reduce costs, she said. 

Avoiding visits to emergency rooms or walk-in clinics is helpful. Health insurance increases have been in the double-digits for the past five years, according to Jane Spegele, vice president and general counsel for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. 

"It is almost universal that companies' response to the fifth consecutive year of health insurance increases is to be asking employees to be sharing some of the costs," Spegele said. 

In a good economy, employers tend to absorb the costs, at least initially, she said. With the continuing increases in the current environment, asking employees to pay a larger share of the premium costs has been prevalent, she said. 

When health care costs soared in the 1980s, many smaller companies had to drop their coverage, Spegele said. The introduction of managed care networks, such as HMOs, helped curb cost increases for several years. 

With shrinking state budgets, physicians and hospitals are constrained by limits on reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid programs, Spegele said. High malpractice premiums also drive the cost of health insurance along with state mandates on services that are covered, she said. 

-----To see more of The Day, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to 

(c) 2003, The Day, New London, Conn. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. 


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