SAN RAMON -- In an effort to further reduce its burgeoning health care costs, the San Ramon Valley Fire District will offer $300 per month to employees who get health care coverage elsewhere.
The fire district's board of directors approved the health care opt-out incentive Wednesday night for the district's 40 unrepresented employees and 140 union-represented firefighters, captains, engineers, inspectors and dispatchers. The offer will take effect after review by the district's legal counsel and in time for open enrollment in other plans, including those through a spouse's employer, officials said.
Board President Matthew Stamey said the offer gives employees another option.
"The issue really boils down to: Can we provide the employee a benefit that also benefits the taxpayers?" Stamey said in an interview.
To be eligible, employees must opt-out of district-provided coverage entirely, including family coverage, if applicable. They must also show evidence of coverage with another medical benefit plan, according to the insurance waiver form. Employees who take the incentive can re-enroll in the district's health coverage plan upon retirement.
Under a labor deal reached this past spring, every employee began paying 8 percent of health care premiums on July 1, for an average of $117.56 a month, according to union President Mike Mohun.
Total monthly premiums for the coming year could reach $700 for individual coverage and $2,000 for a family, leaving the district on the hook for at least $644 per employee each month, district financial consultant Ken Campo told the board.
"I am not optimistic that we are going to see a big opt-out ... but we want good business practices that have been kind of left behind for awhile here," said fire Chief Paige Meyer, who joined the district in March.
Meyer said the $300 incentive will not boost the pensions of employees subject to the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013, generally 2013 new hires who enroll in a California retirement system for the first time. For others, "there could be an argument either way," but a court case underway may provide clarity once it concludes, Meyer said.
The fire district provides fire, rescue and emergency medical services to a 155-square-mile area of Contra Costa County that includes the city of San Ramon, town of Danville and the communities of Alamo, Blackhawk, Diablo, the southern part of Morgan Territory and the Tassajara Valley.
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo, San Ramon and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.