NU Online News Service, Sept. 4, 11:02 a.m. – The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Sacramento, Calif., has started open enrollment for its 2003 health program.

Program members have until Oct. 18 to pick their health plans for 2003.

CalPERS provides health coverage for 1.2 million California public employees, retirees and dependents. Because CalPERS is so big, the deals it strikes help shape the entire U.S. health coverage market.

CalPERS offers a choice of coverage from several different health maintenance organizations and two self-funded preferred provider organization plans.

Copayments and benefit designs will stay the same in 2003, but premiums will be much higher, CalPERS reports.

Active workers will pay an average of 26% more for basic HMO coverage and at least 19% more for PPO coverage.

Retirees who belong to Medicare plans will pay at least 5% more for PPO coverage and 41% more for HMO coverage, CalPERS says.