Schedule set for health care, pension sessions

This summer OPERS will hold dozens of meetings around the state, to gather feedback on proposed changes to our health care coverage plan and to review pending pension legislation.

Members and retirees of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System are encouraged to attend. The sessions will come in two forms:

Town Hall meetings: Open to all members and retirees, two-hour meetings will be held at various locations to review proposed health care coverage changes and pension legislation updates. The first meetings will be May 29 in Cleveland.

Retirement Education Fairs: As part of wider-ranging seminars on retirement topics, presentations on health care coverage and legislative updates will be given by OPERS staff at the Planning to Retire, Ready to Retire and Retiree Education Fairs.

Registration is required. You may register by calling our Member Services department at 800-222-7377. You also can sign up online by logging into your online account and following these instructions:

  • Scroll over “My Profile.”
  • Click on “My Appointments.”
  • Click on “Schedule Seminar.”
  • Choose the seminar you would like to attend – either the Town Hall meetings, or the Education Fairs titled Planning to Retire, Ready to Retire or Retiree (you must be eligible to sign up for a specific Education Fair in order to register).
  • Select a location, date and time. There are two Town Hall meetings each day in each location.

The Ohio Senate last week unanimously approved Senate Bill 343, pension legislation that is based on proposals submitted by the OPERS Board of Trustees. The bill now goes to the Ohio House of Representatives for consideration. We are hopeful that pension legislation will pass in 2012.

Pension legislation is critical for OPERS to continue offering retirees access to health care coverage. OPERS currently is considering changes to the health care plan to extend the program for as long as possible. These proposed changes, which will affect both current and future retirees, will need to be made regardless of legislative action on pensions. However, if pension legislation is not passed in 2012, more extensive changes to the health care program will be required.

The Town Hall meetings and Retirement Fairs will help to explain the health care changes under consideration and will give you the opportunity to provide feedback. In addition, OPERS associates will highlight the proposed benefit plan changes that are in the current pension legislation and tell you how you can help advocate for passage this year.

We encourage as many members as possible to attend a Town Hall meeting or Education Fair this year. Register today – seats will fill up quickly.

This entry was posted in Benefits, Health Care, Pension Reform, Pensions, Senate Bill 343 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to Schedule set for health care, pension sessions

  1. T.P. says:

    When does OPERS plan on conducting a survey to gather feedback from members on these proposed health care coverage changes?

    • Michael Pramik says:

      A survey will be part of our Town Hall meetings.

      –Ohio PERS

      • Virginia says:

        Will the survey be accessible on the OPERS website or by mail for those unable to attend the Town Hall Meetings?

        • Darlene says:

          The article I read said to go on-line at OPERS to take the survey – where is it? i want to voice my frustration. A few years ago, the move was to limit spouse care to 55 years or older. Now it is complete elimination. I am disappointed in what appears to be a phase in plan all along.

          • Michael Pramik says:

            Darlene,

            The survey is at the end of the Town Hall Meeting Presentation at http://www.opers.org. Look under “Related Media” in the Special Coverage section. After you watch the presentation, you will be taken directly to the survey.

            –Ohio PERS

      • Clara says:

        Every member of OPERS should receive a survey, not just the ones who are able to attend the meetings.

  2. Sharon M says:

    Will there be any meetings scheduled to be held in Dayton anytime soon?

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Sharon,

      There is one scheduled in Miamisburg, just outside of Dayton, on June 21.

      –Ohio PERS

  3. Joe H says:

    I only receive $1295 a month now. If you take away much more I won’t be able to survive. What happened to the 75 Billion in assets in OPERS ?

  4. a says:

    When will specific details be published on this blog about the proposed changes to retiree health care benefits?

  5. joyce telakowicz says:

    please advise me of meetings where they will be held and when. Thank You.

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Joyce,

      Click on the links “Town Hall meetings” and “Retirement Education Fairs” in the blog to see the schedules.

      –Ohio PERS

  6. Victoria says:

    I just attended a town hall meeting. I understand the need for changes. The distribution of cost is unfair. If already retired with 30 or more years of service your monthy allowance should all be at least 90%. This is already a large decrease from the projected potential cost to employee/retiree which was 4% potentially as of last years meeting before I made a decision to retire. Making changes for those that can still contribute makes sense, but penalizing those already retired regardless of age is poor planning on the boards part. How are these individuals suppose to plan for expenses you never even suggested could happen in this short a time span???

  7. Arnold Frye says:

    My wife and I went to the town hall meeting in Independence, Ohio yesterday, and we were shocked to learn that the OPERS Board has already essentially decided to eliminate spousal health care. The OPERS’ plan for age and service spouse for current and future retirees states, “Spouses will have no allowance and no access to health care”, and “Spouses over age 65 may have access to help in securing a plan on the individual market.” When I asked the OPERS spokesman why its plan is based solely on reducing expenditures by drastically slashing or eliminating health care benefits without increasing funding, like increasing the percentage of members’ contribution (as STRS is doing), the OPERS spokesman said the OPERS Board decided to do it that way. I was also told after the meeting by an OPERS representative that the OPERS Board may “tweak” its plan after considering OPERS members’ comments, such as to allow a three year transition period before eliminating spousal health care benefits.
    I strongly believe that OPERS is using a false dichotomy to pressure its members to support its proposed slashing and/or elimination of benefits by trying to convince OPERS members that there are only two options– that is, (1) support the OPERS Board’s planned slashing or elimination of benefits or (2) suffer more drastic cuts later.
    However, I assert there is at least another option– that is, to amend the proposed legislation to increase OPERS members’ contribution to reduce the severity of the planned benefit cuts and what is essentially the complete elimination of spousal health care benefits.
    Because it is unlikely that the OPERS Board will change its decision to not seek an increase in members’ contribution to help preserve OPERS health care benefits, I urge OPERS members to contact their state legislators to ask that the proposed legislation be amended to allow an increase in the percentage of OPERS members’ contribution be used to help fund OPERS members’ and their spouses’ health care.

    • Dean says:

      Rates have already been increased for the workers and the employers to prop up the OPERS health care plan. While the employee contributions have to go to the pension side of the ledger by law, higher employee contributions allow for a greater percentage of the employer contributions to go the health care.

      In the midst of the stock market down turn, the OPERS board has needed to divert these increased contributions to the pension system and ask those currently working to work longer and receive less. While I may disagree with the OPERS board’s plan, asking the current workers to pay even more for a benefit they will never recieve is rather piggy. Our young workers, especially those with children, have got it rough enough without the retirees piling on.

    • Recent Retiree says:

      Will our input matter? I went to the Town Hall Meeting in Independence and it seems like the proposals are all set. Is it to just let us vent or will you take our input and use it? If not, you have wasted our time and lots of paper.

      • Michael Pramik says:

        Recent Retiree,

        We indeed will consider all the feedback we receive at Town Hall meetings and other educational meetings this spring and summer.

        –Ohio PERS

        • Recent Retiree says:

          I guess I don’t understand, it has already been voted on in the Ohio Senate and approved. Will the legislation be changed before the voting in Sept?

        • Robin Barto says:

          Will the Board consider not dropping healthcare for spouses? My wife just got back on because this July she turns 55..Last year she was dropped and she got breast cancer..Not the fault of OPERS..but I put $13,000.00 out of pocket expenses after getting the best plan for her I could find..She was turned down by Med Mutual and Kaiser because she has High Cholesterol and Allergies (I kid you not). Summacare took her. If she is dropped again she will now have a more serious preexisting condition and if the Affordable care act is striken down…My family may face financial ruin. PLEASE give the message to reconsider dropping healthcare for spouses..Who can I write to further deliver this message. Thank you

    • LINDA says:

      Give us the steps to do this. Probably all OPERS memmbers need to do this.

    • Lois Wallace says:

      I don’t have 40 quarters in private industry, so I don’t qualify for part A of Medicare. I am out the door so far as hospitalization. Who would insure the health of someone over 65 and without Part A? I was told by the biggest companies, Aetna, etc. that it just will never happen, we are too big of a risk.

  8. Jean says:

    I attended the first of these sessions, held May 29 in Independence. It was well worthwhile. I encourage everyone to attend a session and become better informed and prepared for possible future changes to the pension and health care plans. The presenters were very knowledgeable, understanding and patient. They answered questions to the best of their ability at this time.

    • Spouse under 60 says:

      Jean,

      Can you tell us what you learned at the Town Hall Meeting in Independence? Our local one isn’t until August and who knows what may change by then.

      • Arnold Frye says:

        *Spouses over age 65 may have access to help in securing a plan on the individual market.

        According to the information provided at the May 29, 2012 townhall meeting in Independence, Ohio, the earliest, changes could be implemented to the so-called “OPERS Health Care Preservation Plan” is 2014, but both current and future retirees will be impacted by these changes.

  9. Arnold Frye says:

    I went to the townhall meeting in Independence, Ohio on May 28, 2012 too. However, I strongly believe that the OPERS Health Care Preservation Plan is a misnomer. I believe it should be called the OPERS Reduced Health Care Benefits Plan for OPERS Members and the OPERS Health Care Elimination Plan for OPERS Members’ spouses.

  10. Larry Steele says:

    Just a thought! I believe that the retiree’s should be part of the discussions regarding changes in benefits. The “board” maybe could value imput from those of us who have paid into our pension plan and were assured of a comfortable retirement with benefits. I can only hope the any changes in the benefit process with apply to the politicians just as it applies to us

  11. Frank B says:

    At one time our plan was considered one of the best in the nation. Now we have a plan that can no longer provide health care for spouses, at a critical time in our lives. Where has all the money gone? This is happening at a point in all our lives when health care in needed more than ever. How much wasteful spending has taken place.

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Frank,

      The reasons for our proposed health care adjustments include the continual rising costs of health care, the fact that life expectancies continue to grow, the doubling of the number of retirees over time because of the retirement of the baby boomers, and the lack of pension legislation passing. OPERS cannot continue to maintain the same level of health care coverage to retirees and dependents over the coming years without rapidly exhausting all the money in the health care fund.

      –Ohio PERS

      • Virginia says:

        The OPERS Health Care Preservation Plan made significant adjustments to health care in 2006-2007. It would seem the factors OPERS continues to reiterate which affect the ability to provide healthcare or the lack thereof, were apparent at that time and were certainly evident with the downturn of the economy in 2007-2008. If the 2009 proposed pension legislation had passed in 2010 or 2011, baby boomers would still be retiring, healthcare costs and life expectancies would continue to grow. Perhaps if the OPERS health care committee and Board had asked plan participants their opinions regarding this healthcare dilemna early on in the process the Board may have garnered possible suggestions/solutions.

      • Bill says:

        People living longer? Baby Boomers retiring? healthcare costs going up? Next you be saying there is gambling in Casablanca. These things have been known for decades.

  12. Linda says:

    I just cant believe what Im hearing. No health care for spouses. I worked for opers for 30 years. Never paid into social security.depending on the great opers retirement system. It seems every time I get on your website OPERS IS CHANGING THE PENSION. This is not fair to many retirees and soon to be retirees. You are almost forced to retire locking in some of the pension changes to the baby boomers then changing things so drastically when they do retire. If you need to change pension, it should be for new opers members. I might as well of hid my money under my bed mattress instead of being in OPERS. I would at least had some chance to retire with some money.Just look at what your employer pays and what you pay to be in the system for many years. I think everyone should just take their money from opers and hide it. Better chances are you will still have it under your mattress. Thats what my grandparents did. Never trusting anyone with their hard earned money. Oh yes, I know health care is not manditory but how long has OPERS had healthcare. Well, since I’ve been a member for 32 years. Does anyone know? Please, you just can’t do this!!!! It will devestate nearly everyone on OPERS pension

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Linda,

      OPERS was established in 1935 and began offering subsidized access to health care coverage in 1974. The coverage was initiated in 1962, but until ’74 the member paid the entire premium.

      –Ohio PERS

      • Linda says:

        premiums were way cheap back then and didnt take all your pension.

        • Linda says:

          Also, I joined in 1981, I thought this was the best pension with 30 years and hard labor and less pay for what I would of made in a factory. OPERS needs to leave our pension and health care alone. Please change for new hires so they have the oppertunity not to invest many years and get slapped the way retirees are now…

  13. Ron says:

    Dear Michael, I was planning on retiring in 18 months. How can I possibly consider this now, when I don’t have any idea how much my wife and I will have to live on. I’ve been to the OPERS retirement planning seminars and now feel as if I wasted my time. How can you plan when OPERS keeps changing the rules. This whole mess is so unfair, and should be against the law. The politics of this whole thing is like a nightmare version of the board game “Life”, only we’re talking about real people’s lives. I understand the need for change, but don’t change it for those who have already completed their work lives, or are soon to be retired. They never had benefit of a warning to make other plans. The new generation of workers have the benefit of planning for the future, whereas us old folks thought we had already done so, with OPERS. PLEASE DON’T THROW US UNDER THE BUS IN THE 11TH HOUR.

    • Recent Retiree says:

      My last day of work was Halloween. Wow did I get a trick or treat! Ron, your comments are right on!

  14. Stella D'Amico says:

    When are the subsequent meetings? I missed the May meeting in Cleveland. Berea is where I live.
    I should say when and where? Thanks, Stella

  15. Bill says:

    I understand the need to reduce costs, but these proposals are draconian. My wife is self-employed. Reducing the subsidy? OK, I could live with that, but going to zero is too much. The only thing that is even more crazy is not allowing members to buy heath insurance through OPERS. You should at least allow members to buy insurance through the OPERS plan. Hopefuly you will listen to members comments and not just have these meetings for PR purposes. I was prepared for the potential pension law changes, but the health changes are a much bigger issue for most members.

  16. Retiree (Recent) says:

    I attended the town hall meeting in Reynoldsburg. My take away from that meeting was effective 2014, OPERS will no longer offer health care for retirees over the age of 65. Retirees over the age of 65 will be referred to the open market to choose health care.
    Is this correct?

    OPERS should continue the current Humana plan as an option for retirees and consider that preexisting medical conditions will make it very difficult (if not impossible) for retirees (and spouses) to move to other health plans especially if Obamacare is defeated.

    Only career retires (and their spouses) should be eligible for health care benefits establishing 25 or 30 years of service as the minimum number of years required to enroll in health care. Health care coverage should be earned…it should not be a gift.

    • Robin Barto says:

      I agree only career employees should get healthcare. I have known people who got a job with the state so after 10yrs they could get healthcare…I think we should carry this message to the meetings we attend.

  17. David says:

    It still amazes me that the hard working American people are always getting thrown under a bus for their efforts to secure their retirement future, their golden years. We would be better off starting a life of crime! At least a person would get 3 meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and health care, that we as tax payers provide for the people that do no work, so what the heck! I have always carried my spouse’s health care insurance. When are the hard working people of America going to stop being raked over the coals. Enough is Enough!

  18. Lisa says:

    We tried to registered for a meeting in Miamisburg. They are already full.

  19. Recent Retiree says:

    Michael,
    I know the House has not yet voted but the Senate approved the proposal. You wrote that the board will consider our opinions. What does that mean? Will they rewrite the proposal and resubmit it to the Senate? Then give it to the House? It just seems odd that after it has been written our opinion is being asked. Shouldn’t our opinion been asked prior to writing the proposal and having it voted on? This is frightening.

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Recent Retiree,

      The OPERS Board’s proposals on health care changes do not require legislative approval and thus are not part of pension legislation passed by the Ohio Senate.

      –Ohio PERS

  20. James E Harris Jr says:

    since when was it in the proposal to eliminate spousal health care coverage for current retirees? I agree with many of the changes, however, removing the spousal coverage will be a major financial burden on current retirees., The system has always been a good one. I gave up double the salary position for a PERS position because of the benefits. After 32 years of serving full time in the PERS retirement system, i get this news. As a full time employee in the system, i feel my spouse should be covered. Especially, when someone who works part time with minimum 2 hours a day work schedule retires, and receives full health care coverage, when their salary wasn’t even close to the health care costs. I feel that PERS and our members needs to fight for spousal coverage for current retirees that have worked full time, 30 or more years in the system. They could even consider increasing the percentage for current employees that pay into the system or increase the deductible for the spouse of current retirees in order to save this benefit

    • Michael Pramik says:

      James,

      Thanks for your response. Like a few other members, you’ve suggested that current employees pay more to cover spousal health care for retirees. Again, the law does not permit that. Further, have you considered how active members would feel about that assessment, which some might construe as a pay cut to benefit someone who never contributed to the system? We plan to address this issue in an upcoming blog.

      –Ohio PERS

      • Robin Barto says:

        I agree with James. Eliminating spousal support will be a major burden. If the law doesn’t permit paying more for spouses then other ways to keep them on need to be found. Example, Make health care only available to career employees i.e. 25 or 30 years and above. Part time people or those with less than 25 years should not be covered. This would reward the career employees who were dedicated to the State and often gave up more lucrative jobs to serve our citizens. Also, I don’t understand why paying more for healthcare for spouses can’t be considered..I thought Healthcare isn’t covered in the Law because they don’t require legislative approval..Anyway, even if the cost of 80 for a spouse were doubled and only available to Career employees..That should help tremendously..

  21. james harris says:

    Sorry i did not explain myself well enough .I met that current members increase their percentage to have this benefit in the future for spouses.( It may need changes in the law). Then increase the deductible and contribution on retirees to allow spouses to be covered.The board made mistakes in the past when they allowed anyone with 10 years service to receive this health care benefit with very little income paying into the system, when many were part-time position. That is why many self employed or privately employed looked into these positions/ i.e. township trustee or many more positions making 400/500 $or less a month with ten years service getting full health care for themselves and spouse.I do appreciate the response. We paid almost twice amount into Pers as people on social security at 6% then the government gave payroll tax credit of 2% which means that it is 2% off what individuals pay into social security so they are paying currently 4% and then they wonder whey social security is going broke ! last part editorial comment thanks for listening.

  22. RIck J says:

    The proposed change to exclude spouses is a strike below the belt. The main reason I have continued to work is for the Health Care for myself and spouse.

  23. Soon to retire says:

    If I retire prior to pension reform and healthcare changes (i.e. 12/31/2012) with 29 years of service at age 56 will I be eligible for the healthcare coverage benefit?

    • Michael Pramik says:

      Soon to retire,

      The final adjustments to the OPERS health care program will not be made until November. The current preference of the OPERS Board of Trustees is that minimum eligibility for future retirees only would require age 60 with 20 years of service or 30 or more years of service at any age. Current retirees would be excluded from the new age-and-service member eligibility requirements.

      –Ohio PERS

      • Soon to Retire says:

        Will these new healthcare adjustments take effect when the OPERS Board of Trustees makes a decision in November 2012 or January 2014?

  24. Gilbert Scherer says:

    I think that the currently retired people with Opers should be grandfathered in. I had to apply and receive Part B of Medicare before I could be eligible for Humana Advantage in June of 2012 as I turned 65. With that , my health care premiums increased and the Part B reimbursement has saved me financially. I would like the Part B reimbursement to continue as it was mandatory that I get Part B for Opers. I worked most of my life for the State of Ohio and never earned enough quarters to be eligible for full Medicare. I would like Opers to offer the Humana Advantage Plan or something comparable as I never had time to plan and earn enough quarters via Social Security / Medicare. Thusly, I advocate for current retirees with Opers who are 65 with at least Part B to be grandfathered in with the continued Part B reimbursement. I am single luckily and feel sorry for the plans to cut spouses out . However, it boils down that Opers retirees should get top priority and 20 years and being 60 seems reasonable to me in the Opers proposals.

  25. gilbert scherer says:

    I went to the Opers town meeting today in Columbus at the Ramada Hotel. I was shocked and more depressed than before with the proposed health care changes by Opers. Apparently, Opers wants the legislature to allow it to decide on its own what it wants to do about Part B reimbursement . Opers apparently is proposing to do away with it in a short time. That will be a major financial blow to me as that is the only part of Medicare I am eligible for . You see, I will not be allowed an allowance to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan or Supplement on the open market because I have never paid into Medicare for Part A. How can this be , you ask. Easy! I started working for the State of Ohio before state employees paid into Part A of Medicare in 1986 I believe. The Opers people are apparently planning on phasing out the sponsored plan like Humana Medicare Advantage which covers all 65 and over who have at least the Part B that has been mandated by Opers for people like me. What is my future going to be? I believe it will be very pricey and bleak with some sort of health option that is not Medicare related unless Part B could somehow fit in. Then, I am told it will be pricey and I will also have my Part B reimbursement taken away in the current Opers planning. So, even though I am already pretty poor on my $18000 gross pension (I don’t qualify for Medicaid) , the proposals look to be such that things are looking positively bleak for a year or 2 down the road with Opers healthcare. I am hoping that some of the current Opers proposals can be modified to continue my Part B reimbursement and affiliation with something like Humana Medicare Advantage. It is all I can qualify for is this kind of arrangement via Opers. This would mean asking Opers to consider grandfathering somebody like me in. I am already 65 with only Part B eligibility for probably the rest of my life. Under the proposals, I could not really use an allowance to shop for a plan because they all require Part A eligibility which I will never have. I am eligible for some food stamps and help with my phone bill and Heap/winter heating bill. I am not eligible for Medicaid for really poor people because I have a very small savings account and some money in my untouched deferred compensation from state employment. I am hoping that some things can change and that the Opers proposals can consider people like me more , ones who worked paying into Opers for years and would like some reasonably priced decent healthcare that is comprehensive and gives choices of doctors and so on . It was comforting today to learn that it appears that Opers will still sponsor access to dental and vision , hopefuly reasonably affordable and decent. But the money for all these add up and I am already poor and alone.

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