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|State includes Vantage in health care mix|
Vantage Health Care of Monroe can now offer state employees health insurance following a contract signed with the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits.
Dr. Gary Jones, president and medical director of Vantage Health Care, said enrollment begins July 15 and ends July 31.
Coverage will begin on Sept. 1.
Vantage will be offered to state employees in 11 parishes in northeast Louisiana.
There are more than 24,000 eligible state employees and dependents in northeast Louisiana who will have the choice to select Vantage as their health insurer, Jones said.
"If an employee wants to sign with Vantage they have that option, or they can stay with who they have now," Jones said. "We are real excited. We think it's great for the employees because we had quite a few state employees who were disappointed when they lost Vantage."
"State employees are just a huge group of people, so we're very excited to be an option for them," Jones added.
Vantage Health Care at one time provided health insurance to many state employees, but Vantage dropped the service several years ago when the Office of Group Benefits made a change concerning health insurance providers.
In 2007, the Legislature approved a bill directing the Office of Group Benefits to contract with Louisiana-based companies to provide fully-insured HMO plans along with the self-insured plans currently offered.
The legislation required "the Office of Group Benefits to contract with certain Louisiana-based health maintenance organizations if they submit responsible offers, proposal or bids."
The law, however, does not require state employees in the region to use Vantage Health Care.
Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed the bill into law, but it was challenged by United Healthcare and Humana, which both have contracts with the Office of Group Benefits.
The law was declared unconstitutional in U.S. District Court. That ruling is being appealed.
Meanwhile, the Office of Group Benefits recently agreed to allow state employees to choose plans offered by Vantage Health Care.
Jones estimates Vantage once served roughly 6,000 state employees out of the 24,000 living in northeast Louisiana.
A number of them called their state legislators to complain when they lost Vantage, Jones said, which spurred the legislation the Legislature approved in 2007.
Vantage currently employs more than 150 people. The company plans to add an additional 10 to 20 new jobs depending on the number of state employees who choose Vantage for health coverage.
Vantage offers health insurance products for businesses, large groups, individuals and Medicare members.
State employees may call (888) 823-1910 or visit www.vhp-stategroup.com for more information. Vantage Health Plan corporate offices are located at 130 DeSiard Street, Suite 300, in Monroe.