The recent CalPERS sign-off on an 85 percent premium hike for its most-costly long-term care insurance policies sparked more than 100 calls and emails to The State Worker.
Here are some of the most common themes:
How can they do this?
They can't afford otherwise. The $3.6 billion privately funded pot of money is too small to cover higher-end policies and hold down premiums for those plans. Nursing home care claims and similar services have run higher than expected. Meanwhile, the California Public Employees' Retirement System's investments have taken a beating.
Most of the 148,000 policyholders have the most lavish plans with lifetime benefits and coverage that keeps up with inflation.
Unlike with CalPERS' pension fund, taxpayers don't cushion losses. Policyholders have to absorb them.
I was told my premiums would never increase. Can I sue?
That's what retired Yolo Superior Court Judge Jim Stevens thought the first time CalPERS raised rates 10 years ago. He combed through his papers looking for lawsuit fodder.
"I couldn't find anything," he said in a telephone interview this week. "No written promise. No guarantee."
Stevens figured more hikes would follow, so he switched to a policy with capped coverage. Those types of polices avoid the big premium jump planned for 2015 and 2016, tempting many policyholders to buy down.
Why doesn't the insurance commissioner step in?
A spokesman for Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said the state defines insurance as a contract that "one undertakes to indemnify another" against loss.
"Since CalPERS' (program) is self-funded by the members," Byron Tucker said, "in essence, there is no indemnification by 'another.' " So the CalPERS program lies outside Jones' jurisdiction.
I've invested so much in this and never have filed a claim. Shouldn't I get a credit to switch coverage?
Long-term care policies aren't investments that gain value over time. Premiums cover current risk.
CalPERS isn't offering a credit to switch policies, since premiums pay for coverage even when it's not used.
If, for example, you switch auto insurance coverage to save money, the insurer won't kick down a credit even if you have a spotless driving record.
Of course, auto insurers don't imply that your rates will never go up. There's no question that CalPERS did.
Will the 85 percent premium increase in 2015 and 2016 be the last?
The premium increase is just one part of a profound shift in CalPERS' long-term care business that includes a more conservative investment strategy and lower expectations for what those investments will return.
CalPERS spokesman Bill Madison said in an email that all those measures "were taken ... with the expectation that additional premium increases would not be needed in the future."
An expectation, not a guarantee.