The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s board of administration has approved a 22% increase in long term care insurance premiums paid by public employees in the state.

The board took action to maintain the stability of the long term care program, according to Calpers, which oversees benefits for workers employed by the state, local public employers and schools. The premium increases are set to begin in mid-2010.

“This premium increase comes during economic hard times for many of our members and their families and, at the same time, we have an obligation to our members using and needing this coverage to maintain the program’s stability,” said Rob Feckner, president of the board, in a statement.

All LTC policies issued before 2005 with either lifetime benefits or inflation coverage will receive the increase. In addition, premiums will increase 5% a year beginning July 2011 for the same policies. Policies issued before 2005 with only non-lifetime benefits and all policies issued after 2005 will receive a single 15% increase, Calpers said.

Employees enrolled in the LTC program will be given an opportunity to keep their plan as is and pay the higher premiums or to reduce benefit options to keep their premiums level, the agency said.

A number of factors in recent years contributed to a 33% deficit in the agency’s LTC program, including a decline in investment returns and higher-than-expected plan usage, Calpers said.