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District Begins Change to CalPERS Medical Benefit Plans


With open enrollment recently concluded, West Valley-Mission Community College District will begin the final steps of switching employees from health care benefits provided through the district carriers to coverage provided through CalPERS. The change, which takes effect January 1, 2015, does not impact employees who are part of the faculty union and police officers union.


Because CalPERS is the third largest purchaser of health care in the nation – serving more than 1.3 million public employees, retirees and their families – it can offer rates that are significantly lower than those offered through smaller organizations such as the district. The district decided to make the switch primarily as an effort to control the costs of medical expenses for employees, said Mary Lonich, Coordinator of Human Resources Support Services at WVMCCD.

“For example, an employee that was currently having $150 deducted from a paycheck now could be paying $12 a month or could even choose an option that was $0 a month,” Lonich said. “There are many choices in the selection that allow an employee to have nothing deducted per month. That’s pretty much unheard of in today’s environment. Any time we can provide a cost savings, or help keep costs from escalating, for the employee and allow them to select something that most closely fits their needs is good for them and good for us.”


Additionally, Lonich said, the switch to CalPERS provides employees with the opportunity to select an insurance that best fits their particular situation. Currently, employees can choose between one PPO plan and two HMO plans, including Kaiser. Under the CalPERS benefits, employees can select from nine options, including three PPO plans.


The district will continue paying an annual contribution toward an employee’s health benefits, Lonich said. On average, that has worked out to about 85 percent of the total cost of medical, dental, vision and long-term disability insurance. With the switch to CalPERS, the district’s share will bump up to about 90 percent on average.


Dental, vision and long-term disability insurance are not affected by the change. Still, Lonich said, the district understands that any change can be difficult initially. That’s why the district launched a professional phone bank where employees and retirees could call in with questions, created an easy-to-read rate chart of the various plans, put together answers to frequently asked questions and held a series of health care forums.


And although the plans offered are changing, Lonich said, the district’s commitment to its promise to retirees regarding their healthcare coverage is not changing.


“We may administer those promises in a different way, but we will certainly live up to those promises,” Lonich said. “Any financial differences that a retiree experiences in moving over to CalPERS, the district will reimburse them for those differences.”


Overall, Lonich said, the retirees and employees she’s spoken with typically feel really good about the change after learning more about it.


“I believe fully that once the transition takes place and we work out the kinks, everyone will be equally happy, if not more happy, under the new plans,” Lonich said. “This is truly a win-win-win all the way around.”


To learn more, including watching the recordings of the health care forums, visit the district’s webpage about the switch: http://www.wvm.edu/