Open enrollment gets underway for state workers

The open-enrollment ‘window’—the annual time-frame during which government employees can change their health-care insurers—opened Monday and will stay open through Oct. 10. The period also enables new government workers to choose a health-care plan for the first time.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System buys about $5.7 billion worth of health-care coverage annually for about 1.3 million members, retirees and their families.

In June, the CalPERS Board of Administration approved a health benefits package for 2009 that will hold overall premium increases to 4.3 percent over 2008 – higher than the previous year but the lowest increase in more than a decade, CalPERS said. The level of benefits and co-payments will not change.

CalPERS’ Preferred Provider Organization Basic (non-Medicare) rates will decline slightly by 0.04 percent next year, while Basic Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) premiums will rise by an average of 6.6 percent. According to CalPERS’ consulting firm, Hewitt Associates, HMO premium rates for large employers nationwide will increase by approximately 11.8 percent in 2009.
CalPERS offers a variety of HMO and PPO health plan options, including: Blue Shield NetValue, Blue Shield Access+, Kaiser Permanente, PERS Select, PERS Choice, PERSCare, California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) Medical Plan, California Association of Highway Patrolmen (CAHP) Health Plan, and Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) Police and Fire Health Plan.

Members who need help selecting a health plan can use an online tool called the Health Plan Chooser. The Chooser provides key information about each plan, enabling members to easily determine which plan best fits their needs.

The Health Plan Chooser is available in the Open Enrollment Center, located on the home page of CalPERS On-Line at

Active employees who want to change their plan or add eligible family members during Open Enrollment should contact their employer’s Health Benefits Officer or Personnel Office. Retirees who have Internet access can change their health plan online through my|CalPERS during Open Enrollment. my|CalPERS is a secure, online site that allows members to maintain personal account profile information, access current health summary information, retrieve statements, manage financial and retirement planning activities, and much more. Retirees can access my|CalPERS at

The CalPERS Health Program started in 1962, when it was opened to State employees. In 1967, public agencies were allowed to contract with CalPERS to provide health benefits for active and retired employees.

Today, CalPERS is the nation’s third largest purchaser of health benefits after the federal government and General Motors, providing benefits to nearly 1.3 million people

CalPERS’ pensions apply to vested employees. If you are a state employee, “vesting” refers to the amount of time you must be employed by the state in order to be eligible to receive employer contributions toward the cost of the monthly health premium during retirement. The longer you worked in a “covered” service, the more your employer contributes.

Bargaining unit negotiations may affect the state’s vesting requirements. State vesting requirements do not apply to California State University (CSU) retirees, employees of the Legislature, contracting public agency retirees, or those on disability retirement. The amount the state contributes toward your health coverage depends on whether you are vested. The contribution amount is determined by a formula set by law and the date you were first hired by the state.

First hired by the State prior to January 1, 1985: You are eligible to receive 100 percent of the State’s contribution toward your health premium upon your retirement.

First hired by the State between January 1, 1985 and January 1, 1989: You are subject to vesting requirements, as follows: 10 years of credited State service: -You are fully vested and qualify for 100 percent of the State’s contribution toward your health premium. Less than 10 years of credited – State service: You are eligible for health coverage; however, the State’s contribution will be reduced by 10 percent for each year of service under 10 years. You will be responsible for the difference.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: