Georgia Health Care

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The cost of health care for more than a half million Georgians surged sharply upward when new rules for the state health benefit plan took effect. Among the new rules is a surcharge for smokers and a whopping $100 co-payment for certain types of drugs.

State officials argue the aggressive cost-cutting rules for the State Health Benefit Plan are necessary to offset a projected $446 million deficit. The plan covers some $650,000 state employees, teachers, their dependents and retirees.

State employees say it's another in a series of pocketbook blows that weakens their morale and exposes them to new health risks by forcing them to choose cheaper drugs that may not be as effective.

Members of the plan are being hit with a triple whammy of premium increases, surcharges and hikes in their required co-payments.