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CSU-ERFA News & Views

Please note that the summaries of news items posted on this page do not necessarily represent the official positions of CSU-ERFA or its affiliates.  Links contained within the summaries may take you to the original news sources.  CSU-ERFA is not responsible for the content of linked articles and cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of those articles.

July 2016

One of the problems of retirement is that it gives you more time to read about the problems of retirement. ~Author unknown.
 

 


CalPERS Health Plans Open Enrollment 2016: The open enrollment period for CalPERS health plans will begin on September 12, 2016, and will end on October 7, 2016. Those of you who have elected to continue receiving health plan open enrollment information by mail should receive it prior to the start of the open enrollment period.  If you haven't received your information packet by a week or so before the start of open enrollment, call CalPERS at 1-888-225-7377 to request a packet.

Those of you who did not send a written notice to CalPERS electing to continue receiving open enrollment information by mail, will need to log on to your my|CalPERS account to view the open enrollment information.  If you don't already have a my|CalPERS account, this would be a good time to create one.

The account setup procedure is relatively straight-forward.  Go to my.calpers.ca.gov and select "Participant" on the Pre-Login page, then select "Continue," then select "Register Now" and follow the prompts.  (If you run into any difficulty, call CalPERS at 1-888225-7377 for assistance or contact us.)

If you are thinking about changing your health plan coverage for next year, CalPERS already has posted rate information for the plans that will be available for 2017; and you can find that information on your my|CalPERS page.

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May 2015

One of the problems of retirement is that it gives you more time to read about the problems of retirement. ~Author unknown.
 

 


Former CalPERS CEO Fred Buenrostro was sentenced by a federal judge today (May 31, 2016) to four and 1/2 years in prison in a case in which he acknowledged accepting bribes and trying to steer investments to help an associate according to an article in Salon.

Buenrostro pleaded guilty two years ago to accepting bribes to persuade CalPERS staff members to make investment decisions that helped former CalPERS board member Alfred Villalobos who at the time was working as an investment manager. Villalobos committed suicide in January of 2015.

Buenrostro's sentencing brings to a close the most serious scandal to hit CalPERS in recent memory. As a result of the scandal, CalPERS has instituted numerous safeguards to prevent similar actions in the future.

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CalPERS selects new Pharmacy Benefits Manager for 2017. CalPERS has signed a five-year contract with OptumRX to administer prescription drug benefits for all CalPERS health plans with the exception of Kaiser and Blue Shield of California HMOs starting January 1, 2017.

The plans affected are PERS Select, PERS Choice, and PERSCare PPO plans, and Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, Sharp, and UnitedHealthcare HMO plans.

CalPERS issued the following news release regarding the change on May 18, 2016:

The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) today announced that it selected OptumRX as its new Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM). The company will administer prescription drug benefits for nearly 486,000 members and their dependents enrolled in all of CalPERS' health plans with the exception of the Kaiser and Blue Shield of California Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans.

The five-year contract – worth an estimated $4.9 billion – takes effect January 1, 2017, and ends December 31, 2021. It will cover pharmacy benefits for members enrolled in CalPERS' self-funded PERS Select, PERS Choice, and PERSCare Preferred Provider Organization health plans, as well as for those enrolled in the Anthem Blue Cross, HealthNet, Sharp, and UnitedHealthcare HMO plans.

OptumRx, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, is headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and has connections to more than 67,000 pharmacies nationwide. It will replace CalPERS' current PBM, CVS Caremark, whose contract expires December 31, 2016. CVS has held the PBM contract since January 1, 2012.

OptumRx was one of three finalists in a competitive bid process for the PBM contract. In addition to CVS, the other bidder was Express Scripts, Inc.

The CalPERS Board of Administration awarded the PBM contract to OptumRx based on the results of its final bid submission.

"The finalists and their bid responses went through a thorough vetting during the review, from their customer service and mail order processes to their pricing and cost-control measures," said CalPERS Board of Administration President Rob Feckner. "OptumRx had the strongest bid submission. We are confident that the company will successfully meet the needs of our members and our staff will work with OptumRx and CVS Caremark to ensure that the transition for our members and physicians will be as smooth as possible."

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This is the first time CalPERS has negotiated and secured contractual agreements before the PBM contract was awarded, and the first time it has negotiated a full five-year PBM contract at one time.

"We placed a lot of emphasis in this solicitation on the company's ability to deal with the increasingly high cost of prescription drugs, and OptumRx presented a very strong proposal," said Priya Mathur, chair of the CalPERS Pension and Health Benefits Committee. "In addition to being concerned about the health and safety of our members, we wanted to ensure the company we selected would be as committed as we are to continually develop strategies to mitigate the impact of those rapidly rising costs on our members."

Contract terms require that the PBM provide drugs of the highest quality and value, based on sound clinical evidence. It also requires transparency and full disclosure of the financial relationships between the PBM and drug manufacturers.

All of the bidders for the PBM contract were evaluated on their strategies for price controls, sustained affordability, pricing, innovation, mail order networks, formularies, drug utilization programs, utilization management, and customer service.

For more than eight decades, CalPERS has built retirement and health security for state, school, and public agency members who invest their lifework in public service. Our pension fund serves more than 1.8 million members in the CalPERS retirement system and administers benefits for more than 1.4 million members and their families in our health program, making us the largest defined-benefit public pension in the U.S. CalPERS' total fund market value currently stands at approximately $291 billion. For more information, visit www.calpers.ca.gov.

CSU-ERFA will provide additional information about the change to the new Pharmacy Benefits Manager as it becomes available.

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Beginning May 16, 2016 CSU-ERFA Headquarters office hours will be from 9 AM to 3 PM Pacific Time, Monday through Thursday.  Voicemail messages may be left outside regular office hours.

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REMINDER - re CalPERS Health Plan statements and open enrollment information.

CalPERS Health Plan statements and open enrollment information is going online.  You should have received a notice from CalPERS informing you that starting later this year (August 22, 2016) your annual health plan statement and open enrollment information for the coming year (2017) will be available online through your my|CalPERS account.

Your health plan statement and open enrollment information will no longer be sent to you by U.S. Mail unless you specifically notify CalPERS that you want to continue receiving by mail no later than July 1, 2016.

You can provide such notification by returning the postcard that comes with the notice by July 1, 2016, or by calling CalPERS at 1-888-225-7377, or by logging into my.calpers.ca.gov and selecting the Profile Tab option, then selecting Mailing Preference.

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Harold Goldwhite (Los Angeles) has been selected to succeed Don Cameron as Executive Director of CSU-ERFA. Goldwhite's selection was confirmed by acclamation at the April 23rd State Council Meeting in San Jose. He will begin a two-year on July 1, 2016 succeeding Don Cameron who has been serving as Interim Executive Director since July 1, 2015.

Goldwhite previously has served as Chair of the Chemistry Department at CSU Los Angeles, Chair of the CSU Los Angeles Academic Senate, Chair of the statewide CSU Academic Senate, Director of the CSU Institute of Teaching and Learning, and Faculty Trustee on the CSU Board of Trustees among other positions.

As Executive Director, Goldwhite will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of CSU-ERFA.

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March 2016

One of the problems of retirement is that it gives you more time to read about the problems of retirement. ~Author unknown.
 

 


The following is from a CalPERS news release that was received today (March 31, 2016).

CalPERS Issues Fraud Alert for Riverside County Members

Recent reports of individuals posing as CalPERS employees

SACRAMENTO, CA – Members of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) living in Riverside County, California, have recently reported that individuals posing as CalPERS employees are attempting to engage with members at their place of residence. This is to alert CalPERS members in the Riverside County area to be cautious and to prevent them from being victimized.

 
CalPERS members in the City of Corona in Riverside County reported to CalPERS that a well-dressed male approached their place of residence and indicated that he wanted to discuss member discounts that are now available to them.  The members were presented with information on a clipboard that accompanied an envelope that is marked with a CalPERS logo and a form of an employee badge.

 
It is important for members in Riverside County to know that CalPERS does not contact members by going door-to-door. CalPERS members are advised to be cautious if they are contacted by any door-to-door individual and that they should get any identifying information, vehicles, business cards, names, etc., of the person representing themselves as CalPERS employees/representatives, and immediately contact the Riverside Police Department and notify CalPERS at 1-888-CalPERS (225-7377).

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CSU-ERFA President William Blischke has asked that we post the following letter from George Diehr, current CSU-ERFA Executive Board Member, and former CalPERS Trustee.  Please note that neither the CSU-ERFA Executive Committee, nor the CSU-ERFA State Council has had an opportunity to vote on a position regarding the strike.  Thus, our organization remains neutral on this issue.  However, members of CSU-ERFA of course are free to participate in the strike as individuals if they so choose.

Dear CSU-ERFA Colleagues,

As you know, the CSU faculty is preparingto hold
a strike from April 13-15 and 18-19 at all 23 CSU
campuses.  I am supporting this strike for one
reason: the CSU administration needs to return
its focus to the university's raison d'etre:  education.

The disturbing findings and trends I wrote
about in the final years of the 20th century
have continued unabated in the new century.
The proportion of the CSU budget spent on
instruction and faculty compensation has
declined dramatically. In addition, critical
support functions for instruction—academic
support—have also not enjoyed the increases
afforded other support activities.

In 1999/2000, the CSU spent $2,689 million, of
which $1,250.8 million was spent on instruction:
46.5%. Sixteen years later, total expenditures had
increased 90% to $5,113.9 million, but instruction
had increased by only 84.2%, falling to 45.1% of
the total. While a 1.4 percentage point decline
might not seem like a lot, $71 million—it is more
than CFA seeks in order to provide a 5%, instead
of 2%, salary increase.

Even more shocking is how spending on faculty
compensation declined as a percentage of total
employee compensation. In 2000/01, 53.9% of total
compensation cost was spent on faculty; by
2016/17, the faculty percentage had declined
to 49.7%. To restore the faculty compensation
cost to 2000/01 proportions would require an
increase of 18.5%!  CFA is asking for only 3%
above the administration's offer.

For further analysis of the impact of California
State University administration’s priorities and
decisions on CSU faculty, students and public
higher education, take a look at the “Race to
the Bottom” series released in 2015: http://www.calfac.org/race-to-the-bottom

The bottom line is that the quality of our
students’ education depends on its faculty,
yet in the CSU, the faculty has been left
behind while other functions have enjoyed
the majority of funding increases. CFA’s
bargaining for a 5% salary increase is not
only justified but is really quite modest in
light of the statistics cited above.

CSU retired faculty spent our professional lives
helping to build a strong public university system
for our students.  Now we need to protect our
university by standing with our active colleagues
in their fight for 5%.  Show your support by
walking a picket line, distributing information
to colleagues, writing letters to CSU trustees
and officials, legislators, and/or the governor.

Please join me in pledging your support:  http://www.calfac.org/post/commit-strike

George Diehr

Emeritus Professor Management
Science, CSUSM
Member, CSU-ERFA Executive Committee
Former Trustee, CalPERS Board of Administration

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CalPERS Health Plan statements and open enrollment information is going online.  If you have not already received it, you soon will receive a notice from CalPERS informing you that starting later this year (August 22, 2016) your annual health plan statement and open enrollment information for the coming year (2017) will be available online through your my|CalPERS account.

Your health plan statement and open enrollment information will no longer be sent to you by U.S. Mail unless you specifically notify CalPERS that you want to continue receiving by mail.

You can provide such notification by returning the postcard that comes with the notice by July 1, 2016, or by calling CalPERS at 1-888-225-7377, or by logging into my.calpers.ca.gov and selecting the Profile Tab option, then selecting Mailing Preference.

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We have received the very sad news that CSU-ERFA Past President Milt Dobkin passed away on March 10, 2016.

Milt Dobkin served as the second president of CSU-ERFA from 1989 through 1994.  Along with Sid Albert, Jack Byrom, Len Mathy, and Emmett Long, he was part of the small group that was the driving force behind the growth of CSU-ERFA in its first decade.  Following his service as President and Past-President he served on the CSU-ERFA Executive Committee as Chair of the Health Benefits Committee for many years.  In this capacity he ably represented the health benefit concerns of CSU retirees before CalPERS committees and other government agencies.

He attended meetings of the CSU-ERFA State Council well into his 90s, offering the Association wise council on issues of importance to its members.

In addition to his service to CSU-ERFA, Milt was active in the California Faculty Association, served as Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Humboldt, served as acting President at Humboldt, and also held positions in the Chancellor's Office.

As a person, Milt was legendary for his kindness and grace.  He served as mentor to many throughout the CSU, and he will be missed.

Update: The memorial service for Milt Dobkin is scheduled to be held on April 9th from noon to 3 PM at the Baywood Country Club, 3600 Buttermilk Lane, Arcata, CA.

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CalPERS has announced the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for 2016.  Owing to the low rate of inflation (0.12%) in 2015, those CSU employees who retired in 2006 or later will receive no COLA.  CSU employees who retired in 2005 will receive a 1.555% COLA.  Those who retired in 2004 and earlier will receive a 2% COLA.

Editor's note: the rules for computing COLA is somewhat complicated.  A full discussion is available on the CalPERS website.  Basically if the inflation rate is between 1 and 2% in a given year, the following year's COLA is equal to that percentage plus any carry-forward from previous years up to a maximum of 2%.

If the inflation rate in a given year exceeds 2%, the COLA for the following year is limited to 2%.  The excess is then carried forward, and can be applied in years when the previous year's inflation rate was less than 2%.  That is the reason why those who retired in 2004 or earlier, will receive a 2% COLA this year, and those who retired in 2005 will receive a 1.555% COLA.  Last year's 0.12% inflation rate will be carried forward, and may be added into a later year's COLA.

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February 2016

Q. How many retirees does it take to change a light bulb?

A. Only one, but it might take him or her two or three days. ~Author unknown.

The March 2016 issue of the CSU-ERFA newsletter the Reporter is now available online.  This issue contains a number of articles of interest to CSU-ERFA members and other CSU retirees.

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The CSU-ERFA Grant Awards Committee has recommended and the CSU-ERFA Executive Committee has approved five grant awards for the 2015-16 cycle.  The recipients were:

Mary B. White (San Jose), who was awarded $1250 to support her project "Documentation of California Glass History 1950 to 2015."

Laurence D. Houlgate (San Luis Obispo), who was awarded $1150 to support his project "Philosophy, Family and Law: A New Introduction to Legal Philosophy."

David R. Maciel (Dominguez Hills), who was awarded $1100 to support his project "Tin Tan - Mexico's Early Post-modern Cross-cultural Icon."

David R. Stronck (East Bay), who was awarded $1000 to support his project "Measuring, Monitoring and Analyzing the Growth of Trees in Reforesting 10,000 Acres of Southern Alameda County."

Herbert Arthur DeKleine (San Luis Obispo), who was awarded $500 to support his project "Techniques for Clonal Propagation of Hardwood Trees."

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January 2016


Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.  ~Herbert Asquith


The Sacramento Bee reported today (January 18, 2016) that the initiative sponsored by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio to drastically alter the California public employee pension system has failed to make the November 2016 ballot.  The initiative sponsors cited a lack of financial support for the failed effort.

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December 2015

Don't play too much golf.  Two rounds a day are plenty.  ~Harry Vardon

As you may know, CalPERS automatically reimburses the basic Medicare Part B monthly premium (which will be $121.80 for 2016) for its retirees who are in Medicare.  What you may not know is that if you are subject to the Income-Related Monthly Medicare Adjustment (the IRMMA) because your annual total adjusted income exceeds certain limits, you may be eligible to have part or all of the IRMMA reimbursed by CalPERS as well.

The amount of additional reimbursement will depend on how much excess money is available from the monthly health insurance contribution made by the CSU for CSU retirees.  This will vary depending on how many of your dependents, if any, are enrolled in CalPERS basic or supplemental health plans.

If you think you may be eligible for reimbursement for all or part of your IRMMA, you have to notify CalPERS in writing.  Include in your letter to CalPERS a copy of your annual letter from the Social Security Administration describing your benefits for the coming calendar year.  This will include the amount of your IRMMA. (The letter for 2016 was sent to Social Security recipients in late November 2015.)

Mail your request to

CalPERS Health Account Services
Medicare Administration
P.O. Box 942714
Sacramento, CA 94229-2714

Within a few weeks you should receive a response from CalPERS, which indicates the amount of additional Part B reimbursement you will receive for 2016.  Note that it can take from 30 to 90 days before the additional reimbursement begins to appear in your retirement check or deposit.  The reimbursement will cover the entire year, so you may also see a lump sum payment for the prior months.

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Reminder: The deadline for submitting applications to the CSU-ERFA Grant Awards Program 2015-16 cycle is December 18, 2015.  These grants help to support the research, scholarly, and creative work of CSU-ERFA members.  A total of $5,000 is available for this grant cycle.  Non-members may submit grant applications if they include their membership application with their proposals.  Follow the above link for more information and application forms.

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There is still time to donate to the CSU-ERFA Charitable foundation and receive a tax deduction for 2015.  Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar.

The CSU-ERFA Charitable Foundation recently received another $500 challenge grant from a CSU-ERFA member.  The donor will match all individual donations received by the foundation through December 30, 2015 up to a total of $500.

The CSU-ERFA Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that provides competitive grants to CSU-ERFA members to support their research and scholarly activities.  Donations in any amount from both CSU-ERFA members and the general public are welcomed.  Donations to the foundation generally are deductible from state and federal income taxes.

You may donate by sending a check to the CSU-ERFA Charitable Foundation at 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8339.

CSU-ERFA members also have the option of setting up a regular monthly donation to the foundation from their CalPERS pension warrant. 

In either case, please download and fill out our donation agreement form.

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September 2015


Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.  ~Herbert Asquith


CSU-ERFA is searching for a new Executive Director to replace Don Cameron, who is retiring from the position on June 30, 2016.  Applications must be received by the Chair of the Search Committee by Feb. 1, 2016.  The official vacancy announcement can be found here.

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The Open Enrollment Period for CalPERS health plans runs from September 14, 2015 to October 9, 2015.

Significant changes to CalPERS offerings for retirees have been made.  Four existing Medicare options will be discontinued, and will be replaced by a United Health Care Medicare Advantage Plan.  If you currently are enrolled in the Anthem Blue Cross HMO plan, Blue Shield of California HMO, Health Net HMO, or Sharp HMO, you will need to choose either the new United Health Care Medicare Advantage Plan or one of the other existing options.  For details please see the front-page story in the September 2015 issue of the Reporter.

More information about the new United Health Care Medicare Advantage Plan is available in this Q&A from CalPERS.

And here is a special note for people who receive their health care from the U.C. Davis Health System in the greater Sacramento area.

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Resolution Advising CSU-ERFA Members Not to Sign the "Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare Benefits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment" (Chuck Reed Initiative)

WHEREAS CSU-ERFA has taken positions in the past against the restriction of retirement benefits for current and future public employees, such as those proposed by former Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose; and

WHEREAS the current Chuck Reed Initiative, "1696. (15-0033) Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare Benefits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment," proposes to eliminate constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including those of the CSU; and

WHEREAS the current Chuck Reed initiative proposes barring all new public employees in California from being placed in defined benefit retirement plans and barring public employers from paying more than one-half the cost of new employees’ retirement benefits or enhancing retirement benefits, unless changes are first approved by the voters; THEREFORE

BE IT RESOLVED that the CSU-ERFA Executive Committee unanimously opposes the current Chuck Reed initiative that will be circulated between August 11, 2015 and February 8, 2016 and advises all CSU-ERFA members not to sign it.


Background Information

The Attorney-General’s summary of the proposed initiative is below:

1696. (15-0033) Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare Benefits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Summary Date: 08/11/2015 | Circulation Deadline: 02/08/16 | Signatures Required: 585,407 Chuck Reed, Stephanie Gomes, Carl DeMaio, Pat Morris, Bill Kampe, and Tom Tait (415) 732-7700

Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including those working in K-12 schools, higher education, hospitals, and police protection, for future work performed. Adds initiative/referendum powers to Constitution, for determining public employee compensation and retirement benefits. Bars government employers from enrolling new employees in defined benefit plans, paying more than one-half cost of new employees’ retirement benefits, or enhancing retirement benefits, unless first approved by voters. Limits placement of financial conditions upon government employers closing defined benefit plans to new employees. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Significant effects—savings and costs—on state and local governments relating to compensation for governmental employees. The magnitude and timing of these effects would depend heavily on future decisions made by voters, governmental employers, and the courts. (15-0033.) (Full Text)

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August 2015


Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.  ~Herbert Asquith


CalPERS is providing an informational webinar on the new UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage PPO plan being offered during this coming Open Enrollment period (September 14-October 9). This webinar was created specifically with Medicare-eligible retirees in mind.

All CSU Retirees who might be interested in this new Medicare Advantage PPO Plan, are encouraged to register for the the webinar.  Note the date!

Date:  Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Time: 3:00pm,  Pacific Daylight Time

Topic: “Get to Know the UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage PPO Plan”

Duration: 60 minutes

Follow this link to register:

https://veconnect.us/gk/g/35rmp3i25HU-279

Questions will be answered through the live chat function of the webinar; and, the webinar will be recorded, and made available on the new CalPERS website for those who are unable to participate in the live session. 

Register with your name and email address so that CalPERS can gauge the size of the prospective audience.

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July 2015


Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.  ~Herbert Asquith


An updated version of the CSU Volunteer Policy has been released by the Chancellor's Office. Current and potential CSU volunteers are encouraged to become familiar with this policy, which applies to all campuses of the CSU:

 www.calstate.edu/HRAdm/pdf2015/HR2015-10.pdf

Note: The CFA recently requested a meet and confer session with CSU management with regard to the new CSU Volunteer Policy.  As a result, the new policy currently is being held in abeyance for this bargaining unit.  It continues in effect for all other bargaining units.  Current and prospective CSU volunteers should check with their campus HR offices to determine if this affects them.

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June 2015


Retire from work, but not from life.  ~M.K. Soni


The June 2015 issue of the Reporter, CSU-ERFA's quarterly newsletter is now available online.  This issue contains a number of interesting articles including one by former CalPERS Board Member George Diehr of CSU San Marcos that shows how choosing a Reduced Allowance during the first five years of retirement can significantly enhance a retiree's retirement benefit after the first five years.  This may be of interest to those who plan to have other sources of income early in retirement.

George has prepared a "web extra" that provides extensive footnotes and extra details about how the Reduced Allowance option works.

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May 2015

O, blest retirement! friend to life's decline -
How blest is he who crowns, in shades like these,
A youth of labor with an age of ease!
~Oliver Goldsmith

 

 


The CSU-ERFA Grant Awards Committee has announced the start of the 2015-16 Grant Awards Cycle.  Members of CSU-ERFA may apply for grants to support their research, scholarly, and creative activities beginning May 21, 2015.  Completed applications must be received at CSU-ERFA headquarters by December 18, 2015.

Detailed guidelines for the program and application forms for the 2015-16 may be downloaded from our Member Services page.

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