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Governor Signs Bill Providing Vision Care Program for State University Retirees

Twenty thousand CSU retirees will benefit

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The governor on Monday signed SB 235 allowing California State University (CSU) retirees to participate in a self-funded comprehensive vision care program.

"We are very grateful that the Legislature and governor have recognized the need to provide this important program to all state retirees," said Barbara LaPlante, President of CSEA Retirees, Inc. "When people have good vision care, they have a greater chance of retaining their independence and serious conditions may be diagnosed sooner."

CSEA Retirees, Inc. is the sponsor of SB 235 by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Monterey, establishing the CSU vision program. Retirees were also behind last year's AB 2242 by Assemblymember Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, which allowed most state retirees into a program similar to the Vision Services Plan (VSP) that active employees enjoy. The participating retirees pay the insurance premium of about $8.78 for a single; $17.12 for two people; and $18.43 for a family in exchange for the comprehensive plan with group rates.

But CSU retirees were not included in AB 2242. The inequity is now resolved under SB 235. An estimated 20,000 California State University retirees will be eligible to participate. The Office of the Chancellor of CSU will administer the program for the CSU participants. The cost and startup date for the CSU program have not yet been determined.

The VSP plan for other state retirees is administered by the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA). The DPA program was operational within several months of the signing.

The two vision care programs culminate an 18-year legislative struggle for CSEA Retirees, Inc. After many steps forward and back, Gov. Davis actually signed similar vision care legislation several years ago. But money was not included in the state budget to administer the program.

Although active state employees have access to the Vision Services Plan (VSP), the coverage does not extend into retirement. Vision care may be offered through retirees' HMOs or Medicare, but it is not as comprehensive as the VSP plan.

For example, the HMO and PPO plans (for Basic) members offer only routine eye examinations and basic care. They do not include eyeglass coverage unless it results from cataract surgery. Additionally, some Medicare plans offer some limited benefits, while others offer only minimal vision benefits.

Under the VSP plan, retirees who choose to participate will be offered basic eye examination coverage and primary eye care coverage. The VSP plan also offers eyeglass and contact lens coverage with a co-payment.

"After a lifetime of service to the state, it is our responsibility to ensure that our annuitants have access to quality health care," said Sen. McLeod, the author of SB 235. "This is a modest measure that brings our CSU retirees' vision benefit into parity with other retired state employees.

"There is more work to be done on this subject, and I will continue to work with CSEA as we look toward 2008 and beyond."

Another bill sponsored by CSEA Retirees, Inc. -- SB 689 (Correa) -- would require the state to fund half of the program costs for the new state retiree vision programs.

That bill will be heard in the Legislature next year. CSEA Retirees, Inc. is the largest and most experienced exclusive state

retiree organization, representing more than 28,000 retirees.

SOURCE California State Employees Association Retirees, Inc.
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