About 77% of the 48,000 members of the California Public Employees Retirement System who were forced to choose between finding a new doctor in network or paying more next year to see a current doctor in a higher cost plan opted to save money, based on preliminary open-enrollment results released by CalPERS. The pension fund decided to exclude 24 high-cost hospitals, including 13 Sutter Health facilities, from its statewide Blue Shield of California HMO next year in an effort to save $45 million in annual costs.
Industry observers viewed the open-enrollment statistics as a victory for CalPERS in its battle with Sutter over rates. But CalPERS cautioned against reading too much into the data. "Early indications show there was no member stampede to retain their Sutter doctor or hospital by moving to our (PPO)," Sid Abrams, chairman of CalPERS' health benefits committee, said in a news release. "But I want to emphasize that we don't know all the reasons why affected members stayed in the Blue Shield HMO plan or went to other (HMOs)." A final report with an analysis of members' specific reasons for selecting plans will be released in February. -- by Laura B. Benko