County board OKs departure from CalPERS health network

Registered nurse Joyce Presser, who has been with the hospital for almost 29 years, walks down the hall to the nurse's station at the Hazel Hawkins Hospital Women's Center.

San Benito County supervisors Tuesday voted 4-0 to leave the CalPERS Health Care network, which has provided options to county employees and retirees for 23 years.

Supervisors decided to switch coverage to the California State Association of Counties Excess Insurance Authority in a 3-1 vote, with District 5 Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz voting no.

A main concern in changing health care providers expressed at Tuesday’s meeting is that premium rates may be low for a year or two, but are subject to change as the county has little control over rates. Rates are determined based on what services employees and retirees use.

Before the vote, supervisors listened to county employees, retirees and union representatives voice their opinion on the available providers.

“We feel good about the vote,” said SEIU 521 Union President Michael Silverman. “It brings relief to our members, our retirees. It’s something we’ve been working hard on for the last year and a half through this negotiated process.”

District 3 Supervisor Robert Rivas said that it didn’t seem to make sense to stay with CalPERS given its current rate of 22 percent.

San Benito County became part of the Public Employees Medical and Hospital Care Act through CalPERS in 1993. County health care premium costs have gone up and down over the years. CalPERS announced in June 2015 that its 2016 health premiums would increase more than 20 percent, which significantly affected county employees and retirees.

Earlier this year, county staff invited representatives from all of the bargaining groups to participate as part of an insurance committee process to review a draft request for proposals. The RFP showed alternate health care providers and offered input and recommendations to the county.

County bargaining groups included SEIU, MEG, Institutions Association, DSA, and LEM, Auditor-Controller, County Counsel and County Administrator, as listed in county documents.

Circulation of the RFP drew responses from two providers at the end of May: Keenan Associates and CSAC-EIA. Bargaining group representatives listened to presentations from both providers.

County staff asked each bargaining group to offer their respective recommendations, but there was no consensus among the groups. Silverman said SEIU favored Keenan Associates because it would provide the most immediate relief, but isn’t disappointed with the selection of CSAC-EIA.

“The ultimate goal was relief from the increased health care rate, and we got that,” he said.

The county is barred from returning to CalPERS for five years due to leaving, with the earliest re-entry date being January 1, 2022.

Leave your comments