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The State Worker by The Sacramento Bee

Good Wednesday morning, and welcome to the Oct. 11 edition of the State Worker Newsletter.

Programming note: We’re still accepting title suggestions for the newsletter. If you’ve got one, send it to The Bee’s State Worker reporter Maya Miller at [email protected].

THIS WEEK’S BUZZ

State dental benefits haven’t increased in 40 years, retiree group says

Retired state workers are unsettled that California’s most comprehensive and popular dental plan only covers up to $2,000 worth of services each year.

That’s the same amount they were eligible for 40 years ago, according to the California State Retirees association. And, as one retiree points out, $2,000 barely covers half the cost of an average dental implant.

In the last eight months, retiree Geoff McLennan says he and his wife have undergone $12,500 worth of dental services. After a failed root canal, McLennan had to have an infected tooth surgically removed and replaced with an implant. His wife, Connie, had a rare form of tooth decay and needed a double extraction and surgical implants.

Only $3,500 of the couple’s costs were covered by their state dental plan, administered by Delta Dental of California.

“How can they call this a ‘benefit?’” McLennan said. “We’re having to use our retirement checks to pay for these high costs.”

The Rocklin resident was shocked when he learned from the California State Retirees that the maximum benefit hadn’t increased in nearly four decades. McLennan said he knew other retirees who were taking out loans and using credit cards to finance their dental work.

State workers and retirees who want a PPO plan — short for preferred provider organization, which generally provides the widest array of coverage — their only option is Delta Dental of California. The company’s three PPO plans max out after covering $2,000 worth of services ($1,500 for dependents).

The state of California has contracted with the company since October 1984 and “actively monitors plan utilization and engages with Delta Dental annually” to ensure competitive coverage options, according to CalHR spokesperson Camille Travis. McClennan questioned why the state wouldn’t choose to solicit more competitive bids from other providers.

Only about 5% of people enrolled in the state’s dental plan hit their $2,000 plan year maximum, Travis said, and more than half of enrollees use less than $400 worth of coverage. The $2,000 maximum is consistent with industry standards, Travis wrote, and 80% of Delta Dental of California’s portfolio offers less than that per year, according to CalHR.

Still, Larry Woodson, former health benefits chair of the California State Retirees, questions why the state isn’t able to offer a separate plan — with higher premiums — for people who know they’ll need more dental coverage.

Woodson met with representatives from CalHR in February to discuss the possibility of expanding coverage, but he hasn’t received a follow-up meeting since June. Woodson just recently retired from his position as health benefits chair.

“They were very cordial in meeting with us, and we appreciated that,” Woodson said of the retirees’

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