County Retirement Board Delays Decision on Health Benefits
San Diego County retirement board officials on Friday said it could take several months before a decision is made regarding a request by the county to reduce retiree health benefits, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Branscomb, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/5).
The county Board of Supervisors in December 2006 approved a plan to stop contributing $30 million annually to retiree health care benefits for current county employees and those who retired after 2002.
The plan could save the county as much as $1.8 billion over 20 years as health care costs increase and new federal accounting rules take effect. The rules will require public pension systems to disclose the cost of future health care benefit payments to retirees (California Healthline, 12/6/06).
Retirement board CEO Brian White said that the board might not reach a decision until April or May. The retirement board is reviewing the proposal, including concerns about tax implications and the board's legal responsibilities, and has hired a San Francisco law firm to review the issues.
Retirement board President David Myers said the group will not allow supervisors to force an "artificial timeline" on the decision, nor will it tolerate "pressure or blackmail" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/5).
If the request is denied, the county will stop contributing to the county health care fund, thereby compromising health care benefits for all retirees (California Healthline, 12/6/06).
The decision by the county board of supervisors to reduce health care benefits for retirees was "simple and fair," a Union-Tribune editorial states. "Pension debt already threatens essential public services, so it is reckless to create a dangerous health care obligation," according to the editorial. "This approach provides a model for [San Diego County] and other debt-plagued governments across California," the editorial states, concluding, "The board must embrace it" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/6)This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.