CCC September Bulletin

Healthcare Update: 2020 Healthcare Rates for Active Employees Now Available
Benefits Open Enrollment for the Plan Year January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020 for eligible employees of Contra Costa County will begin at 8:00 AM on Monday, October 21, 2019 and end at 5:00 PM on Friday, November 8, 2019.
The 2020 Healthcare Rates for Active Employees are now available on the Benefits page of the County website, which can be accessed by
clicking here.

Changes are going into effect starting in the 2020 plan year that will affect all employees who are enrolled in a County sponsored health care plan, or that might compel some employees who waive insurance currently to enroll, so please get informed now

Here are the highlights:
  • Employee costs for Kaiser are going down in 2020.
  • Employee costs for CCHP are going up in 2020.
  • “New” Health Net plans are replacing the current ones in 2020 with lower monthly premium costs for employees at most tiers.
  • And this stuff is complicated, so you are encouraged to read on...
Background & Overview of Healthcare Changes Starting in 2020
Our 9-Union Healthcare Coalition reached agreement with the County at the end of 2018 for the County to begin paying a percentage-based fixed subsidy for our healthcare premiums starting in 2020. Most public agencies in the Bay Area pay a percentage-based healthcare subsidy. Starting in 2020, our County will pay the same subsidy per tier across all plans, and that subsidy will be based on a negotiated percentage of the total premium of the second lowest cost, non-deductible HMO plan (the benchmark plan). The County subsidy will also increase over each year of the new contract as follows:
New Healthcare Cost Sharing / County Subsidy Amounts: Increases Each Year
2020 Plan Year
75% (Employee Only & Employee Plus 1 tiers) / 76.5% (Employee Plus 2 or More tier) of the benchmark plan premium across all plans.
2021 Plan Year
78.5% of the benchmark plan premium across all plans and tiers.
2022 Plan Year
80% of the benchmark plan premium across all plans and tiers.
Moving to this new percentage-based, fixed employer subsidy is a big improvement because having the same subsidy across all plans is a key feature for incentivizing healthcare plans to be cost competitive with each other. It’s also fairer to all employees, because the County will be paying the same amount of money (per tier) toward our healthcare costs regardless of which plan we choose.
Another important achievement of our 9-Union Coalition last year was getting the County to cover all of the 2019 healthcare premium increases across all plans and tiers for the nearly 5,000 employees the Coalition represents. Total healthcare premium costs increased significantly in 2019 across all plans and tiers, but employees’ costs remained the same. It’s also worth noting that the total out-year cost to the County by 2022 of the healthcare improvements our coalition fought for and won was estimated by the CAO at approximately $22 million more per year, a significantly increased investment in employee healthcare as a result of our efforts.  

Cost & County Subsidy Changes

The Kaiser plans’ premium rates are barely increasing in 2020 (only by 0.22%). For the first time in many years, Kaiser A will be the lowest cost non-deductible HMO Plan in the County. That also means CCHP A (as the 2nd lowest cost non-deductible HMO Plan) will become the new benchmark plan for setting the County’s healthcare subsidy amounts in 2020.

When we switch to the new 75% (Employee Only & Employee Plus 1) / 76.5% (Employee Plus 2 or More) healthcare cost sharing structure in 2020, Kaiser Plan participants in all plans at all tiers will experience substantial savings on their healthcare costs. This is mainly due to the new County subsidy being based on the more expensive CCHP Plan A premium, and again, that Kaiser premiums only increased 0.22% for the 2020 Plan Year.

Cost & County Subsidy Changes

CCHP premium rates, in contrast to Kaiser, are increasing nearly 10% in 2020 after a 9% increase in 2019. CCHP failed to respond to repeated requests for comparable member utilization and facilities data similar to what the other health insurers provided. The reality is that CCHP sets its premium rates using different standards than commercial healthcare plans, making it difficult to hold them accountable for their rate increases.

Moreover, it is obvious over the last few years the County is no longer willing to keep CCHP costs low, and is instead attempting to price CCHP for what it actually costs the County. The new County subsidy that will be applied across all plans starting in 2020 (which will be determined using CCHP Plan A as the benchmark) is slightly higher for most CCHP plans than it is currently. However, it won’t be high enough to absorb the 19% premium increases CCHP experienced in 2019-2020 combined. That means CCHP participants will experience varying increases in their healthcare costs next year, and our coalition’s strategy for dealing with CCHP in the future will need to change.  

Cost & Plan Changes

As most Health Net participants know, Health Net costs have been a growing problem for years. The 9-Union Healthcare Coalition knew in 2018 that by going to a fixed County subsidy starting in 2020, Health Net costs for employees would skyrocket. Therefore, we were tasked with the difficult challenge of finding a replacement for Health Net by 2020 that preserves a non-Kaiser, non-CCHP option, at the same or better cost to employees. The JLMBC engaged a Request for Proposal (RFP) process early this year to look for a Health Net replacement. After a lengthy process including eight (8) respondents to the RFP who were vying for the gig, ironically, Health Net won out and will remain in Contra Costa County.

“New” Health Net Medical Plans

To keep the employee costs roughly comparable to what they are now for Health Net, as of January 1, 2020, we will have two new Health Net medical plans: Health Net SmartCare Plan A and Health Net SmartCare Plan B. These plans are both HMOs and will replace the current Health Net Plan A and Health Net Plan B. Make sure you review the plan highlights and comparison guide that will be available soon on the County’s website.

If you are enrolled in the current Health Net HMO plans, and make no changes during Open Enrollment, you will be moved to the corresponding New Health Net SmartCare HMO plan. For example, if you are currently enrolled in Health Net HMO Plan B you will be moved to Health Net SmartCare HMO Plan B. The only current Health Net HMO plan/tier that will experience an increase in the employee’s share of the monthly premium starting in 2020 under the new equivalent Health Net SmartCare HMO Plan is Health Net HMO Plan A at the family tier. Under the new Health Net SmartCare Plans A and B, all other tiers will experience decreases of varying amounts or roughly break even in terms of the employee’s share of the monthly premium starting in 2020.


Health Net Plan Design Changes

Please know also that in order to keep the Health Net rates in 2020 comparable to what they were this year, we negotiated some plan design changes under the new Narrow Network SmartCare HMO plans. The narrow network has fewer medical groups, so there will be some disruption (about 10% of current Health Net participants may have to find a new primary doctor because their current doctor might not have a contract with an existing medical group in the narrower Health Net network of doctors). But John Muir, Hill Physicians, and other major medical groups are still included in the new narrow network.  Some changes to the out-of-pocket costs at the point of service were also necessary. So again, please be sure to review the plan highlights and comparison guide that will be provided during Open Enrollment and made available on the County Benefits website page.

Final Thoughts on Healthcare Open Enrollment
With the substantial changes taking effect to our healthcare in 2020, including new Health Net SmartCare HMO plans and differing cost impacts across all healthcare plans, we strongly encourage all Local 21 members to seriously consider your options and what is best for your circumstances when you make your healthcare choice for 2020. Change isn’t easy, but some employees may decide it’s best to make a change for 2020.  

Open Enrollment information will be sent by the County to all employees and posted on the County Benefits website page soon. Additional information will be sent to all employees currently enrolled in Health Net to explain the new SmartCare HMO system. We hope this Local 21 email broadcast, and the rest of the information you receive, helps make you better informed to make your healthcare decision for 2020.

Each employee will be asked to sign up for their healthcare through the PeopleSoft e-Benefits online system between October 21, 2019 and November 8, 2019. If anyone has questions regarding how to sign up or what plan might be best for you, you are encouraged to contact the County Employee Benefits Unit at (925) 335-1746 or send questions to
Health Services Accountants
Win Backpay for Work Performed Out of Class
For years, Accountants assigned to a particular unit in Health Services, Finance were required to directly supervise the work of subordinate employees, a responsibility — including the hiring of subordinate staff, their assignment of work, performance evaluation, and more — that was completely outside their assigned County job classification.
In response, Local 21 filed a grievance on behalf of five impacted members, alleging a violation of Section 5.13 of the contract — “Pay for Work in a Higher Classification.”  In support of our grievance, we collected ample evidence demonstrating that the accountants in question were actually performing the work of the “Supervising Accountant” job classification.
Shortly thereafter, in response to the filing of the grievance, the County began to properly reassign these responsibilities to supervising managers who were appropriately compensated for it.  Nonetheless, there was a delay, and the impacted members were owed backpay for their prior work performed out of class.  The grievance proceeded.

For some time, the Department continued to push the boundaries of what constituted “supervisory” versus “lead” work, but the impacted members collectively drew the line and performed only the work outlined in their official job specification.
Recognizing that the impacted members had a strong case for backpay, the County ultimately settled the grievance with the Union at the eleventh hour, providing for a significant win.  Just two days before the matter was scheduled for an arbitration hearing, the Department agreed to a settlement that will compensate the impacted members in amounts ranging from $5,000 to over $10,000 each.  
This win would not have been possible if not for the impacted members sticking together and taking a stand, even despite multiple attempts by unrepresented management to divide the group. Combined with strong advocacy through Local 21, these members made it clear that our contract cannot be violated without accountability.  

Sign your Gold Card Today

Contra Costa Hosts Successful Leadership Academy #2

On Saturday, September 21, Local 21 hosted another Contra Costa Leadership Academy. Building on the content and success of our first round of Leadership Academies, over 25 Local 21 members from across Contra Costa County attended the half-day retreat in Martinez.  
For our second round of Leadership Academies, we built on our understanding of the political and economic context and environment within which public employees and their unions, as well as all working people, operate.  This background is critical in understanding where we are and where we need to go.  Additionally, training was provided in union representation and worksite organizing.  We discussed the importance of having strong, visible, and active member leadership in as many work areas as possible, a foundation for any strong union.  
To conclude the training, we revisited the importance of supporting and passing Schools & Communities First, a statewide initiative in November 2020 to make corporations pay their fair share of property taxes.  Representing billions of additional dollars for public services statewide, the measure will appropriately fund our public schools and other critical public services that have been increasingly underfunded — services that our members help provide and the community depends on. Member leaders at the Leadership Academy committed to helping support the measure by taking action, such as phone banking and precinct walking as the campaign gets underway, as well as engaging fellow members (like you!) to support the measure.

If you have not committed to supporting Schools & Communities First and helping us spread the word about this critical measure, please do so at your earliest opportunity!
To learn more about Schools & Communities First, please visit this webpage: