Western Health Advantage lands health benefits program for Elk Grove schools

Western Health Advantage displaced Health Net for a spot next to Kaiser Permanente in the health benefits program offered by the Elk Grove Unified School District, effective Monday.

The school district has just fewer than 10,000 employees and dependents, plus 2,500 retirees.

The reason for the switch was that WHA offered rates for the 2013-2014 school year that are “essentially flat,” while Health Net came in with a 20 percent increase, said Rich Fagan, associate superintendent for finance and school support.

The school district pays 80 percent of the premium for lowest-cost plan, which is Kaiser, Fagan said. Employees pick up the other 20 percent for Kaiser — and more for the other health plan. The employee bargaining committee decided WHA was a better deal, though workers liked Health Net, Fagan said.

“We’re disappointed by the decision,” Health Net spokesman Brad Kieffer said, but “we worked closely with the district and its employees as they transitioned to their new plan.”

Sacramento-based WHA is a joint venture owned by Dignity Health, the UC Davis Health System and NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield.

Small employers have been the core market for the health plan, CEO Garry Maisel said, but Western Health is getting more traction with mid-size and large employers.

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