By Dale Kasler
Published: Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 4A

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System plans to raise health care premiums to its members by an average of nearly 10 percent next year, one of the biggest increases in recent years.

The increase of 9.6 percent would be more than twice as big as the rate hike that took effect for this year. It would have significant implications for health care affordability in California and beyond.

CalPERS is a major purchaser of health insurance; it covers nearly 1.3 million public employees, retirees and their family members.

For the average member of CalPERS, the increase would translate into an extra $30 a month in premiums.

The increases were approved Tuesday by CalPERS’ pension and health benefits committee and will go to the full governing board today.

“We introduced a number of initiatives over the past three years to help stabilize rates, but today’s rates reflect the overall continuing upswing of health care costs,” said Priya Mathur, committee chairwoman.

“We tried as much as possible to keep the overall increases close to the national health care cost inflation rate of more than 7 percent projected for next year.”

The announcement caught health care experts off guard.

“Wow – that’s pretty high,” said Joanne Spetz, an expert on health care finance at the University of California, San Francisco.

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