The University of California altered its eligibility requirements Wednesday for retiree health benefits to streamline access to health care and accommodate employee concerns about the previous set of rules.
Based on the new rules, a group of employees who were hired before July 1 last year will now have access to retiree health benefits that they could not previously receive under regulations implemented at the start of this fiscal year.
UC faculty and staff fall under three categories, or tiers, for the UC Retirement Plan. The first tier comprises employees hired before 1990, who receive 100 percent of the university’s contribution to their monthly dental and medical payments upon retirement.
The new rules impact the university’s definitions of the second and third tiers of retirees. Under the new plan, the second tier is composed of all employees who were hired before July 1 last year. This group of employees is eligible to receive 50 percent or more of the university’s contribution to monthly medical and dental care, depending on factors such as age and years worked for the university.
Employees hired on or after July 1 last year belong to the third tier and are eligible for retirement benefits based on age and number of years employed by the university.
Before Wednesday’s announcement, some employees who were hired prior to July 1 were not in the second tier and were thus ineligible for the second tier’s benefits.
“Everyone is still eligible,” said UC spokesperson Brooke Converse. “There’s just a change in rules that allowed a group of people to be in a different tier.”
Joe Kiskis, vice president of external affairs for the Council of UC Faculty Associations — an umbrella organization for campus faculty associations — said the third tier is much less beneficial to UC employees with physically demanding jobs or faculty members who are considering early retirement.
While most UC faculty members work until they reach the age of 65, other employees who work physical jobs are more likely to retire before then, barring them from access to the university’s full contribution, Kiskis said.
“It’s a decrease in the benefits in the sense that you have to work longer to get (the) UC (system) to contribute to your retiring health insurance,” Kiskis said, referring to the third tier.
The changes to the rules affected a relatively small group of UC employees who were concerned about not being grandfathered into the second tier, Converse said. These employees had not worked at least five years for the university, and their age combined with years of service did not equal 75. The revised rules now allow this group to stay within the second tier and be eligible for the second tier’s benefits.
“There were people who were understandably concerned about the previous rules,” Converse said. “We wanted to make sure that retirees understood what was going on and make it simple for them.”