Insurance Program Crisis?

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Mississippi lawmakers are looking at tough choices to keep the state employees' insurance program afloat. The state insurance plan administrator, Therese Hanna, said Tuesday that the program needs either a 23 percent increase in premium payments, which are now covered by the state or a 23 percent cut in benefits.

Hanna said that gives lawmakers a few options:

** Make workers pay some out-of-pocket expenses for their own premiums.

** Eliminate prescription drug coverage and increase deductibles.

** Require a combination of higher premiums and fewer benefits.

** Change state laws to give workers the option to buy different levels of coverage.

Hanna said if officials do nothing, the self-funded state employees' insurance plan will run out of money by November.

Gov. Haley Barbour has said the state could save $54 million a year by requiring state workers to either pay for some of their own premiums or get different levels of coverage.