Benefits Upon Separation

At separation of employment, there are many questions employees have regarding their final pay, benefits continuation, and other topics. The following information should assist in providing guidance on the most commonly asked questions and how to arrange to continue or convert your covered benefits. Keep in mind, you may not be eligible for all of the benefits described below. 

If you choose to continue your current medical, dental, or vision coverage through COBRA, continue to use your current ID numbers. If one of your dependents becomes a subscriber under COBRA continuation coverage, Sutter Health Plus will issue a new ID card. Take this into consideration when planning for health services or prescription medication.

Medical Insurance

If you are enrolled in medical coverage, your medical insurance ends at 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the month in which your employment ends.

You have the following options for continuing your medical coverage:

  • Enrolling in a individual or family (non-group) plan directly with your current carrier. In order to enroll in an individual or family health benefits policy, you must contact your present health benefits carrier's member services within 60 calendar days from the date your employment ends. Your health benefits carrier will have further information enrollment, cost, and benefits.
    OR
  • Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace). The Marketplace offers "one-stop shopping" to find and compare private health insurance options. In the Marketplace, you could be eligible for a tax credit that lowers your monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. You can apply for Marketplace coverage at HealthCare.gov or by calling 1 (800) 318-2596 (TTY 1 (855) 889-4325). To qualify for special enrollment in a Marketplace plan, you must select a plan within 60 days before or 60 days after losing your job-based coverage. 

    Through the Marketplace you can also learn if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage from Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). You can apply for and enroll in Medicaid or CHIP any time of year. If you qualify, your coverage begins immediately. Visit HealthCare.gov or call  1 (800) 318-2596 (TTY 1 (855) 889-4325) for more information or to apply for these programs. You can also apply for Medicaid by contacting your state Medicaid office and learn more about the CHIP program in your state by calling 1 (877) KIDS-NOW (543-7669) or visiting insurekidsnow.gov
    OR
  • COBRA continuation coverage for up to 18 months or until you enroll in Medicare, whichever occurs first after your separation. To continue your coverage, you must pay the full amount of the premium (both the employee and County portion) plus a 2 percent administrative charge. Your enrollment charges begin on the 1st day of the month after the end of the month in which your employment ends. If you continue the coverage to the end of the 18-month period, you will have another 18-month period for medical coverage only  through California COBRA (Cal-COBRA). To continue your coverage through Cal-COBRA, you must pay the full amount of the premium (both the employee and County portion) plus a 10 percent administrative charge and follow instructions provided by your health carrier.

    If you wish to continue your employee coverage under COBRA continuation coverage, you must submit COBRA elections forms to Discovery Benefits Inc. (DBI). Forms must be returned within 60 calendar days after the date of your separation.

    See COBRA section below for additional information.

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Medical Severance Benefit (Layoffs Only)

For employees covered by SEIU, Salary Resolution, WCE, and ESC in bargaining units 00, 01, 05, 10, 21, 25, 45, 49, 50, 51, 52, 60, 75, 80, and 95:

If you are enrolled in medical coverage offered by the County and are laid off, the SEIU MOU (20.3.6), the WCE MOU (18.15), the ESC MOU (20.5(e)), and the Salary Resolution (30.4) provide for a continued County contribution toward your medical coverage.

The County will make its usual medical insurance contribution for the first six (1-6) pay periods following layoff and one half (50%) of its normal contribution for the next six (7-12) pay periods following layoff. This is County Contribution is coordinated with theCOBRA Administrator, Discovery Benefits, Inc. (see COBRA section below.)

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Dental and Vision Insurance

Dental Insurance

If you are enrolled in dental coverage, your dental insurance ends at 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the month in which your employment ends.

You have the following options for continuing your dental coverage:

  • You may extend dental coverage under COBRA for up to 18 months. To continue your coverage, you must pay the full amount of the premium (both the employee and County portion) plus a 2 percent administrative charge. Your COBRA notification packet will be mailed to your home or sent to your secure mailbox (whichever is your preferred method of communication delivery on file) from Discovery Benefits, Inc.
    OR
  • Enrolling in a individual or family (non-group) plan directly with Delta Dental. In order to enroll in an individual or family dental benefits policy, you must contact Delta Dental to obtain a quote at https://www.deltadentalins.com/individuals/plans/.

Retiree Dental

If you are eligible for Retiree Dental coverage, you also have the option to elect Retiree Dental coverage. If you decide to elect Retiree Dental, you must submit enrollment forms for the retiree dental plans within 30 days of your retirement date. Please review the COBRA and Retiree Dental options and costs carefully. In some cases, the COBRA cost may be lower. If you choose to continue coverage under COBRA, you will have the option to elect Retiree Dental coverage within 30 days of COBRA ending.

Vision Insurance

If you are enrolled in vision coverage, your vision insurance ends at 11:59 p.m. on the last day of the month in which your employment ends.

You have the following options for continuing your vision coverage:

  • You may extend vision coverage under COBRA for up to 18 months. To continue your coverage, you must pay the full amount of the premium (both the employee and County portion) plus a 2 percent administrative charge. Your COBRA notification packet will be mailed to your home or sent to your secure mailbox (whichever is your preferred method of communication delivery on file) from Discovery Benefits, Inc.
    OR
  • Enrolling in a individual or family (non-group) plan directly with VSP. In order to enroll in an individual or family dental benefits policy, you must contact VSP to obtain a quote at http://www.StayWithVSP.com.

Retiree Vision

If you are an eligible retiree, the County will enroll you in the VSP Vision Savings Pass discount program. 

SCERA offers a fully insured vision benefit through Vision Service Plan (VSP). Contact SCERA at (707) 565-8100 for more information.  

If you wish to continue your employee coverage under COBRA continuation coverage, you must submit COBRA elections forms to Discovery Benefits Inc. (DBI). Forms must be returned within 60 calendar days after the date of your separation.

See COBRA section below for additional information.

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Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Health FSA

Eligibility for claim reimbursement ends on the day before the Pay Date when no contribution is made. You may file for claim reimbursement for all eligible Health FSA expenses incurred during the plan year in which you were enrolled. For example, if you were enrolled on January 1, 2017 and separate service on April 24, 2017, you may file for reimbursement for eligible expenses incurred from January 1, 2017 through May 16, 2017.  Any eligible expenses incurred on or after May 17, 2017 would not be paid. You have until March 31 to submit claims incurred during the previous plan year.

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You may be eligible to continue your Health FSA through COBRA.

You will not be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage if you have a negative Health FSA account balance at the time you separate from County service.  (Your Health FSA reimbursements have exceeded your contributions to the Health FSA plan.)

You will be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage if you have a positive Health FSA account balance at the time you separate from County service.  (Your Health FSA reimbursements are less than your contributions to the Health FSA plan.).  COBRA enables you to continue participation in the Health FSA through the end of the plan year (December 31st).  When you elect COBRA continuation coverage, you will be required to pay your contributions, on an after-tax basis, to your Health FSA account and you will be able to file for claims incurred during your participation in COBRA, permitting you to use your both your unspent Health FSA balance as well as your COBRA contributions while on COBRA. (See COBRA section below.)

Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP)

No additional deposits can be made to your DCAP account after your termination date and this program is not eligible for continuation through COBRA. However, you can continue to submit eligible expenses until your account is exhausted or dependent care services received on or before March 15 following the end of the plan year (the preceding December 31).  Final deadline to submit claims is March 31 following the end of the plan year of December 31.  For more information on the DCAP program, including eligible expenses, go to http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/HR/Benefits/Flexible-Spending-Account/.  If you are unsure if an expense is eligible for reimbursement, please call the P & A Group at 800-688-2611 or speak with a customer service representative through P & A Group's online chat available at www.padmin.com.

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Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)

Active Employee HRA

Employees with a balance remaining in their Employee Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), may continue to use the HRA funds to pay for qualified health care expenses after employment ends until the funds reach a zero balance. For a list of eligible expenses and to file current-year claims, visit the P & A Group website at www.padmin.com or call 1 (800) 688-2611.

Retiree HRA

The County may have established a Retiree HRA for employees hired on or after January 1, 2009 and made contributions to this account based on paid service hours.  To be eligible to use the Retiree HRA funds to pay for qualified health care expenses after employment ends, you must be at least age 50 or started receiving retirement benefits from SCERA, whichever is earlier. Contact Human Resources Benefits Unit, (707) 565-2900, to set-up your HRA account for reimbursements before submitting a reimbursement claim to the P & A Group. For a list of eligible expenses, visit the P & A Group website at www.padmin.com or call 1 (800) 688-2611.

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Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

You are eligible to obtain benefits through the Employee Assistance Program until your last day of employment. For assistance or more details, contact ValueOptions EAP at 1 (866) 484-4961or go to the website, https://www.achievesolutions.net/achievesolutions/en/sonoma/Home.do.

You may extend EAP coverage under COBRA for up to 18 months. To continue your coverage, you must pay the full amount of the premium (both the employee and County portion) plus a 2 percent administrative charge. Your COBRA notification packet will be mailed to your home or sent to your secure mailbox (whichever is your preferred method of communication delivery on file) from Discovery Benefits, Inc.

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Life Insurance

Life Insurance

Basic, Supplemental, and Dependent Life Insurance coverage end at 11:59 p.m. on the day on which your employment ends. You may be eligible to convert coverage for the plans in which you are enrolled. If you convert to any individual policy, you will pay the entire cost of the premium, that is, the County will not contribute to the cost of the premium as it does (for Basic Life) while you are employed. Please review the documents in their entirety for details and restrictions.

If you elect to convert your coverage, you must submit the Conversion Form and the first premium due directly to The Hartford within 31 days of your coverage termination date. You may check the status of your request by contacting The Hartford directly at 1 (888) 563-1124.

Additional information:

AD&D Insurance

Your Accidental Death & Dismemberment coverage ends at 11:59 p.m. on the day on which your employment ends. No conversion policy is available for AD&D coverage. 

Retiree Life Insurance

If you are an eligible retiree, you have the option to elect Retiree Life Insurance in the amount of $10,000. Contact the Human Resources Benefits Unit at (707) 565-2900 or Benefits@Sonoma-County.org for further information on enrollment, cost, and benefits.

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Long Term Disability (LTD)

Standard Long Term Disability Benefit Plan

Long-Term Disability coverage ends at 11:59 p.m. on the day in which your employment ends. There is no continuation option.

Peace Officers Research Association (PORAC) Long Term Disability Benefit Plan

Long-Term Disability coverage ends at 11:59 p.m. on the day in which your employment ends. For additional information on benefit options contact Myers, Stevens, Toohey & Company, Incorporated at 1 (800) 827-4695.

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Exit Interviews

The County of Sonoma appreciates your comments about the County as a workplace. If you would like to schedule an exit interview with Human Resources to share your experiences as an employee of the County of Sonoma, please contact us at hr@sonoma-county.org or (707) 565-2331.

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Final Paycheck

Your final regular pay is normally generated on the next regular payday following your termination, job elimination, retirement, or as required by state law. All usual deductions, including any health and insurance deductions, will be withheld from this final regular pay, regardless of when in the pay period your employment ended.

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Vacation, Compensatory Time Off, and Sick Leave Payoffs

Contact your department Payroll Clerk.

Employees who terminate employment are entitled to a lump sum payment for all unused vacation and compensatory time-off accrued at the time of separation. Employees in some bargaining units, who are separated from employment due to lay off, are also eligible to receive payment for 25% of all unused sick leave accrued at the time of separation. Please refer to the applicable MOU or the Salary Resolution for specific details. Payment is at the employee’s base hourly rate. Payoff is normally received one to two pay periods following termination of County employment. The lump sum payment will follow the same electronic deposit as your salary check. No health and insurance deductions will be withheld from this pay. 

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Severance Period (Layoffs Only)

All employees generally receive at least three weeks notice in advance of being laid off. If you are covered by SEIU, ESC, or the Salary Resolution, and are laid off and cannot displace another employee or secure other regular County employment, you may be eligible to separate from county service prior to your layoff date and receive your normal base salary for the hours you would normally be scheduled to work during the remainder of the three week period.  Please refer to the appropriate MOU or the Salary Resolution for specific details ( http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/HR/Employee-Relations/Labor/).

Contact your designated department contact if you have questions.

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Housing Assistance Committee (HAC)

The Housing Assistance Committee has adopted a deferral policy for employees that are laid off and may have a Rental/Mortgage Assistance Loan, a First-Time Home Buyer Loan, or a Housing Rehabilitation Loan from the Housing Assistance Fund.  At an employee's request, loan payments can be deferred for up to six months from the date of termination from County employment.

For more information, contact Community Development Commission at (707) 565-7514.

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Retirement Information

Pension Benefits

Contact Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association (SCERA), call (707) 565-8100 and ask to speak to a Benefits Specialist regarding pension eligibility. You will also find information on the SCERA website at http://scretire.org/.

Retiree Medical Plans

If you were hired before January 1, 2009, the Human Resources Benefits Unit makes the final eligibility determination of any County contribution towards Retiree Medical Plan premiums and Retiree Medical Plan enrollment eligibility.  Once you receive this determination, if you have questions, please contact the HR Benefits Unit at (707) 565-2900 or Benefits@Sonoma-County.org.

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Deferred Compensation Programs

457 Retirement Plan

Contributions cease at the time of termination. You may take your account balance as a withdrawal and applicable taxes will be withheld. To take any action on your account, you will need to complete a Payment Option Form available through the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office.  If your balance is less than $1,000, and no action is taken within 30 days from your termination date, the amount in your 457 plan will be automatically distributed to you less applicable taxes.  There are no early withdrawal penalties for 457 plans. If your account exceeds a specific amount ($1,000), you may leave the funds in the account until such time as you wish to take a withdrawal.  You must, however, begin receiving distributions at age 70½.

401(a)

Contributions cease at the time of termination. You may leave the funds in the account until such time as you wish to take a withdrawal and applicable taxes will be withheld.  If you are under the minimum age is 59½ at the time of withdrawal, there is an early withdrawal penalty (10%). There is no minimum dollar amount for maintaining a balance in your account.  To take any action on your account, you will need to complete a Payment Option Form available through the Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office.  A copy of the IRS Rules will be provided when the Payment Option Form is requested.  For 401(a) accounts, there will be no automatic lump sum payment if no action is taken on your behalf.  

Investment Options for 457 Retirement Plan and 401(a)

With both types of accounts, should you wish to maintain a balance, you can still change your investment options.

Deferred Compensation Programs Customer Service

Treasurer-Tax Collector website at: http://www.sonoma-county.org/tax/about_deferred.htm.  For further information, contact the County Deferred Compensation Office at (707) 565-3221.

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Social Security and Medicare

While covered by SCERA, you paid Social Security taxes and Medicare hospital insurance tax. You earned Social Security and Medicare credits in the same manner and at the same rates as individuals in private industry and, therefore, those credits will be added to any past or future credits earned in private industry to establish credit for Social Security and Medicare benefits. If you qualify, you may begin collecting Social Security benefits at age 62 and Medicare benefits at age 65. You should contact the Social Security Administration for further information. ( www.ssa.gov or (800) 772-1213)

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Unemployment Insurance

Based on the circumstances of your separation from the County of Sonoma, you may be eligible to receive benefits through the State of California Employment Development Department. More information is available online through the State of California Unemployment Insurance (UI) page.

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COBRA Continuation Coverage

You have the option of continuing your County health plans coverage under a federal program called COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). COBRA allows you to continue your medical, dental, vision, and Employee Assistance Program (EAP). You may also be eligible to continue your Health Flexible Spending Account depending on your Health FSA account balance at time of separation.  Coverage can generally be continued for up to 18 months, provided you pay 100% of the premiums plus a 2% administration fee.

Cobra Notice and Election Forms

You will automatically receive a COBRA Notification with information regarding your eligibility and options to continue health plan coverage within 45 days after your last day of coverage.  You will receive the COBRA offer at your home address from a third party administrator, Discovery Benefits, Inc.  If you do not receive your COBRA information, contact Human Resources Benefits Unit at (707) 565-2900.  If you have questions after you receive your COBRA offer, please contact Discovery Benefits, Inc. at 1 (866) 451-3399or www.discoverybenefits.com.

Be sure to keep your payroll clerk informed of any address changes for you and your eligible dependents or update your address on the county’s Employee Self Service site available on the internet. https://selfservice.sonomacounty.ca.gov/selfService/action.login.

Election of Continuing Coverage

You only have 60 days from the date you receive the COBRA Notification to make your elections for COBRA continuation coverage.  COBRA health plan coverage options the same as the options you had as an employee:

  • You choose which specific health plans you wish to continue.  For example, you may choose to continue your dental coverage, but not your medical coverage. You have the option to drop coverage for any one or all of your dependents at the time you elect COBRA coverage.
  • You and each of your eligible dependents have a separate right to elect COBRA coverage.  This means that your eligible dependent may choose health plan coverage, but you are not required to also enroll yourself in the plan for your dependent’s coverage to continue under COBRA.
  • While on COBRA, you may not add coverage for anyone not already covered except you may add newly eligible dependents such as a newborn. However, newly eligible dependents may only be added to health plans in which you are enrolled.  The newly eligible dependents do not have an independent right to coverage and may only remain on your COBRA coverage while you are eligible for COBRA coverage.

Premium Payment

You must pay the premiums to Discovery Benefits, Inc. within 45 days of your initial election, retroactive to the last day of employee coverage. No gaps in coverage are permitted between your County coverage and your elected COBRA continuation coverage for any reason.  You may want to elect coverage promptly upon receipt of the COBRA notice to prevent a gap in medical services while in the election period and to prevent a large retroactive premium invoice.  After the initial COBRA premium payment to bring your premiums current, you will be required to make timely monthly premium payments which are due on the first of each month.  Failure to pay benefits timely will result in forfeiture of COBRA continuation coverage.

Customer Service

COBRA website information: http://hr.sonoma-county.org/content.aspx?sid=1024&id=1589

COBRA Administrator:

Discovery Benefits, Inc.

(866) 451-3399

www.discoverybenefits.com

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Contact Information

Benefits Unit

Human Resources Department

Business Hours
Monday – Friday
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Contact us by Phone
Address
575 Administration Drive
Room 116 B
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.465237, -122.725363

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Long Term Disability Benefit Program
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