NU Online News Service, Dec. 4, 9:01 a.m. – The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Sacramento, Calif., says 170,000 families are shifting from one CalPERS major medical plan to another for 2003.

Only 85,000 families switched plans within the CalPERS system in 2002, CalPERS says.

CalPERS is a nonprofit organization that provides health coverage and other benefits for 1.2 million California public employees and retirees. It offers a long menu of health plan choices, but it had to make sweeping changes to the 2003 menu because of a combination of managed care company shutdowns, dramatic price increases, and some companies’ lack of interest in returning to the program.

CalPERS still offered members a choice of health maintenance organization coverage from Blue Shield of California, San Francisco, and Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif., along with two self-funded preferred provider organization plans.

About 49,000 of the 170,000 families that switched actively chose a new health plan. The others ended up in the California Blue plan by default, CalPERS says. CalPERS contends that most families that switched were able to stay with the same doctors because California Blue has such a large provider network.