CalPERS Opts for Premium Increases
The CalPERS board of trustees on Wednesday voted 11-1 to maintain current health benefits in 2007 for its 1.2 million members, the Sacramento Bee reports (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 6/22). The board also endorsed a recommendation from its health committee to freeze current copayments. CalPERS had been considering copay increases that would have saved the pension fund $55 million in 2007 (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 6/22).
Board members said they will review the proposed changes again next year, including measures that would:
- Increase copays;
- Eliminate high-cost doctors from a new PPO plan; and
- Eliminate services in some communities.
The trustees also approved a three-year contract with Blue Shield of California, worth about $4.5 billion. CalPERS will pay an estimated $4.9 billion for health care in 2007, compared with $4.3 billion this year (Sacramento Bee, 6/22).
CalPERS Board President Rob Feckner said, "While we approved premium increases for 2007, we are not going to stop pushing for significant, lasting health care reforms at the local and national level" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/22).
Patricia Macht, a CalPERS spokesperson, said the pension fund is considering several long-range projects to reduce health costs, including developing consistent pricing standards for hospitals (AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 6/22).
Trustees also said they would pressure hospitals and physicians to cut costs, which could lead to lower premiums.
Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said, "The public employee unions have to come to the acceptance that simply squeezing the providers isn't going to solve the problem. At some point, there is going to be a realization that the cost of the premium and copays go up" (Sacramento Bee, 6/22).