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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’ meeting with CalHR. “The idea was they’d talk to us when they were ready.”
Nearly eight months have passed since then, and it looks like state workers and retirees will face a similar menu of options for dental benefits in 2024 as they did last year.
An update on the California Association of Professional Scientists
This week, California’s state scientists were dealt another blow when Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would’ve commissioned a third-party analysis of their compensation and salaries.
Assembly Bill 1677, from Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor, D-Inglewood, would have instructed the UC Berkeley Labor Center to independently consult with both the scientists’ union and CalHR and then present their findings to the Director of Finance by April 30.
“This bill’s requirement to implement any increase in compensation resulting from the study effectively circumvents the collective bargaining process,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.
However, the California Association of Professional Scientists disagrees with Newsom’s interpretation of the bill.
“It looks to us like the governor either didn’t fully read the bill, or he didn’t understand it,” said Jon Ortiz, a spokesman for CAPS. “It certainly doesn’t get rid of the Dills Act.”
More than 50 legislators signed a letter last month calling on the governor and CalHR to make a deal with the scientists. AB 1677 also passed both chambers with more than two-thirds majority votes.
“As scientists, we rely on our data,” said Jacqueline Tkac, CAPS’ bargaining chair, in a previous Bee interview. “When you can’t agree on the data that’s being collected and presented at the table to make decisions, it’s really hard to agree on a lot.”
The Public Employment Relations Board assigned mediator Kenneth Glenn to oversee talks between CAPS and CalHR, Ortiz said. However, meetings won’t begin until November due to scheduling conflicts.
Former Earthquake Authority chief faces fines for conflict of interest
A former executive with California’s public earthquake insurer could owe up to $4,000 in fines to the state’s General Fund for reportedly awarding a sign-making contract to the company where her husband was employed at the time.
Kellie Schneider, who served as the chief operating officer for California Earthquake Authority from 2017 to 2020, agreed in a stipulation with the Fair Political Practices Commission that she violated the state’s Political Reform Act by awarding a contract to WeidnerCA, a marketing company where her husband, Edward Schneider, allegedly worked.
“By participating in the bid process and by signing off on WeidnerCA as the selected bid for the sign project, Schneider participated in and made a governmental decision to enter into a contract on behalf of the CEA,” the stipulation document reads.
“As WeidnerCA was the contracting party and because WeidnerCA was a financial interest to Schneider, Schneider had a conflict of interest when she approved the contract between CEA and WeidnerCA.”
The board will vote on Thursday on whether to impose the $4,000 fine.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
The Bee analyzed 21 months of California telework data. How does your department compare?
After years of setbacks, California legislative workers won the right to unionize
WHAT I’M READING
If you work from an office in downtown Sacramento, where do you park and how much do you pay? Share your thoughts with The Bee in the module below or by sending an email to [email protected].
This story was at first revealed Oct 11, 2023, 8:00 AM.