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Consolidated Benefits (CoBen)

Employees in bargaining units 2, 7, 8, 16, 17, 18, and 19, and excluded employees, receive a Consolidated Benefits (CoBen) allowance to use for health, dental, and vision insurance. 

Depending on the total cost of the benefit plans you choose, CoBen may allow you to receive additional taxable income each month, which you can use to offset out-of-pocket premium costs.  This web page offers you valuable information so that you can make the most out of the CoBen Program.

The files linked from this page are PDFs and require Adobe Reader – get a free download.

Open Enrollment period is September 12 through October 7, 2016 (Closed)

Enrollments and changes made during Open Enrollment are effective January 1, 2017. 

You may still be able to enroll or make changes to your benefits if you are newly hired, newly eligible, or experience a change in status (permitting event).  Please contact your department’s personnel office for more information.

How CoBen Works

First, identify the amount of your CoBen allowance.  This is the amount the state provides you to pay the premiums for your health and dental plans. The state pays for your vision plan. The amount of your CoBen allowance depends on whether you're covering yourself only, or dependents too. 

Next, choose the benefit plans that best meet your needs. Identify the premium for each plan, total the cost of the plans you've selected, and compare it to your CoBen allowance.

  • If the total cost of the plans you choose is less than your benefit allowance, you'll receive the difference as taxable cash in your paycheck. The excess cash amount is subject to state, federal, and social security taxes. In order to receive the excess cash, you must be enrolled in health, dental, and vision.
  • If the total cost of the plans you've chosen is more than your CoBen allowance, you pay the difference with pre-tax dollars, which is automatically deducted from your paycheck. This amount is not subject to state, federal, Social Security, or Medicare taxes.
  • If the total cost of the plans you have chosen is equal to your CoBen allowance, you pay nothing, and you receive no cash back.
  • If you are enrolled in health and vision only, the premium amount that would be deducted from your allowance for dental is applied to reduce your out of premium pocket cost.
  • If you're not enrolled in all three benefits, you're not eligible to receive the full CoBen allowance.

You make the most out of your participation in CoBen by making cost-effective benefit choices, which can result in extra money for you each month in your paycheck. It's also important that you carefully consider your choices to ensure they meet your ongoing health and dental needs and those of your eligible dependents.  Your health plan party code selection (1, 2, or 3) will determine your CoBen allowance when enrolled in all three benefits. 

How CoBen Affects You

How CoBen affects you depends on your personal situation and the benefit plans you choose. Remember, CoBen offers you the opportunity to make benefit choices in order to maximize the total benefit allowance the state provides to you, or receive additional taxable monthly income. 

Represented and Excluded Employee CoBen Allowance

Due to the nature of the collective bargaining process, changes may alter contribution amounts and dependent vesting levels.  For the most current information, review your MOU or visit www.calhr.ca.gov.

Calculating Your Cost or Savings

The worksheet in the CoBen Handbook will help you determine how much will be deducted from your pay warrant, or added to it, based on the health, dental, and vision plans chosen.  Or you may use the automated Benefits Calculator  below.

Benefits Calculator

If you are going to make a change in your benefit choices, you may want to use the Benefits Calculator to help you determine your deduction or deposit amount, based on which health and dental plans you choose. You simply click on your health and dental plan choices, and how many dependents you cover. The calculator automatically computes the total cost of the benefits you select and subtracts them from the CoBen Allowance.  The result shows whether you have a monthly benefit deduction or receive extra cash. 

Dependent Health Vesting

New employees may be subject to dependent health care vesting.  Dependent health care vesting provides new employees a reduced employer health benefits contribution toward dependent health coverage during the first 12 or 24 months of service.  After the 12 or 24 months, these employees will receive the full employer contribution for their dependents as specified in their collective agreement.  Please refer to the appropriate MOU for the specific criteria for determining if you are subject to dependent health care vesting.

Vision

All employees are automatically enrolled in the state's vision plan.  Therefore, you need to add in the cost of this coverage when calculating the total cost of your benefits.  For employees in CoBen, enrollment in the vision plan is mandatory. 

Benefit Allowance - FAQs

What is a CoBen Allowance?

The state will establish one "combined" employer contribution (known as a "CoBen Allowance") amount for your health, dental, and vision benefits. The CoBen allowance is automatically established in the SCO payroll system; therefore, no enrollment form is required.  Based on the health, dental, and vision plans you choose, the full premium cost is deducted from the benefit CoBen allowance.  Eligible employees are automatically enrolled in the state's vision plan. The vision benefit is mandatory under CoBen, you may not cancel your state-sponsored vision coverage. 

Who is eligible for the CoBen Allowance?

State employees eligible for the CoBen Benefit Allowance must meet the eligibility criteria listed below:

  • Designated Bargaining Unit 2, 7, 8, 16, 17, 18, and 19, managerial, supervisory, exempt (except Judicial council employees, Judges and Justices), confidential, and all other permanent employees excluded from collective bargaining.
  • Limited-Term (LT) or Temporary Authorization (TAU) employees appointed six months or more (for appointments in item 1).
  • Seasonal Lifeguards (Unit 7) and Seasonal Firefighters (Unit 8).
  • All eligible employees must work half-time or more. 

When is my benefits allowance effective?

Keep in mind that no enrollment form is required and the CoBen allowance is automatically established. The effective date is on a prospective basis and based on when you move into or out of an employee designation that is eligible for Consolidated Benefits.

What happens if the total cost of my health, dental, and vision benefits are less than my allowance.

If the total cost of the plans you choose is less than your CoBen allowance, then you will receive the difference as taxable cash (excess cash) in your paycheck. The excess cash amount will be subject to state, federal, and social security taxes.

What happens if the total cost of my health, dental, and vision benefits are more than my allowance?

If the total cost of the plans you choose is more than your CoBen allowance, then you pay the difference (out-of-pocket) with pre-tax dollars automatically deducted from your paycheck. The out-of-pocket amount will not be subject to state, federal, and Social Security taxes.

What happens to my CoBen Allowance if I receive cash in lieu of health coverage?

If you elect to receive cash in lieu of your state-sponsored health plan but enroll in a state-sponsored dental plan, then your dental benefit enrollment party code will be used to determine the amount of the benefit allowance. In this situation, you will receive cash in lieu of health, and your dental and vision premiums will be fully paid. You will not have an out-of-pocket dental and vision premium cost.
 
However, if the total cost of your dental and vision premium is less than your benefit allowance, than you will not receive the difference (excess cash) in your paycheck. In order to receive excess cash, you must be enrolled in health, dental, and vision. If you are not enrolled in all three benefits, then you will not be eligible to receive excess cash.

Is there a CoBen Allowance in retirement?

No. Your CoBen allowance will automatically stop at the time of retirement or separation, if your benefits are canceled for non-eligibility, or there is a change in your eligibility for Consolidated Benefits. At retirement, your health and dental deduction (if any) will be shown as the state share and retiree share of the applicable premiums.

Where can I get more information?

If you need more information, check with your department’s personnel office to obtain a copy of the CoBen Handbook.

You may also use the Benefits Calculator which will help you determine how much will be deducted from your paycheck, or added to it, based on which health and dental plans you choose.  State vision coverage is mandatory under CoBen; therefore, the vision amount is automatically added into the calculation.

The CoBen Handbook also includes a worksheet that you may fill out to help calculate your benefit costs. However, the Benefits Calculator has the advantage of being easier to use and allowing you to try different scenarios. You simply click on your health and dental plan choices, and number of dependents that will be covered. The calculator automatically computes the total cost of the benefits and subtracts the CoBen allowance. The result shows whether you will have a monthly benefit deduction or receive extra cash, and the amount of the deduction or cash. 

2017 Plan Information

2016 Plan Information

Forms

For More Information

If you have additional questions about Consolidated Benefits or please contact your department’s personnel office.   

  Updated: 9/8/2016
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