OPERS answers questions from members

Topics include re-employed retirees, retirement eligibility groups

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

May 2, 2017 –The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System’s PERSpective blog provides a two-way channel of communication for members and retirees.

Often we answer questions we believe could benefit many other members. Here are a few we’ve received recently. We’re paraphrasing the questions to eliminate personal information.

I noticed on my annual statement that I am in retirement group B. What’s a retirement group, and why is it important that I know what group I’m in?

– Nancy C.

Nancy,

We created three retirement groups when we passed pension legislation in 2012, and each OPERS member is in one of these groups: A, B or C.

These groups were part of a transition plan to ease the burden of the changes we made and allow members time to prepare for them. The benefit changes placed members into a group based on their proximity to retirement eligibility when the new law went into effect.

Your retirement group is determined by the date you become eligible for retirement and the number of years of service credit you’ve earned.

You can find your current retirement group on the front page of your 2016 annual statement or in your online account. It is important to know your retirement group because it determines when you can retire and gain access to health care. You can find current eligibility requirements for your group on our Pension & Health Care Eligibility Guide.

* * * * *

I chose the retirement plan in which my wife will receive the same amount as I get. Will she receive my base amount, or will she get all of the 3 percent raises I have received?

– Steven L.

Steven,

Spouses do receive the historical cost-of-living adjustments, which had been 3 percent, although that is changing for many OPERS retirees to a figure based on the Consumer Price Index in 2019. Realize that net payment amounts may be different because of different tax withholdings or deductions for health care premiums.

* * * * *

I’m a retired OPERS member, and I work the polls for my local Board of Elections at sporadic dates throughout the year. I also work in training for elections. I’m paid separately for working polls and for training, but I’m wondering if there’s a difference either for my status as a public employee or for my OPERS health care.


—Demetra M.

Demetra,

First off, let me say that there can be several reasons why your health care premiums have changed. To find out specifics, send us a secure message through your online account or call us at 800-222-7377.

Now, let’s take on your election worker question. Rules covering election workers’ status with OPERS are covered in Ohio Revised Code Section 145.012 and Ohio Administrative Code Rule 145-1-44.

Individuals employed as election workers and paid less than $600 per calendar year for that service are not considered public employees. However, you should know what it means to be an “election worker.”

Rule 145-1-44 defines an election worker as “an individual who performs services as a precinct election official or voting location manager for the board of elections for a day the election polls are open and training or preparation for such service.”

The law was modified a year ago to add that caveat for training. Therefore, if the combined amounts you are paid to work the polls on a given election day and the money you earn while training add up to $600 or more, you are considered a public employee from that point forward during the calendar year. It doesn’t matter that your local board of election issues one type of payment for working the polls and another for training.

Will that affect your health care? Yes, and in different ways depending whether or not you’re on Medicare.

OPERS has established the Humana Interim Plan for re-employed retirees that coordinates with Medicare or supplements your public employer’s coverage and Medicare. Re-employed retirees under age 65 will be enrolled in the Medical Mutual Interim Plan and will have the same plan design as the Medical Mutual plan for those not re-employed. However, the premiums might differ among plans.

We have a comprehensive section of our website that explains how this all works, including what happens if you reach the re-employment earning level midyear or subsequently stop working in your OPERS-covered position. It includes a fact sheet that explains some scenarios of re-employment health care.

But if you really want the specifics of your personal situation, contact us via phone or your online account.

Michael Pramik

Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

32 thoughts on “OPERS answers questions from members

  • May 2, 2017 at 4:57 pm
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    Since when and when were members notified that our 3% annual cost of living increases were going to be based on the consumer price index effective in 2019? This change would have resulted in a ZERO increase for the past several years?

    Reply
    • May 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm
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      Lucy,

      The change to cost of living adjustment, known as the COLA, was included in pension redesign legislation that went into effect Jan. 7, 2013. The changes have helped OPERS maintain our financial strength and the retirement security of our members and retirees.

      With the new law, the COLA is tied to the Consumer Price Index, up to three percent each year, instead of a consistent three percent annual increase. Group A members who retire within the first five calendar years after Jan. 7, 2013 will receive a simple, 3 percent COLA until Dec. 31, 2018. Thereafter, their COLA will be based on an allowance equal to a percentage of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), up to 3 percent. Groups B and C members will receive a COLA based on an allowance equal to a percentage of the CPI-W, up to 3 percent.

      The changes were announced in member and retiree newsletters, through the media, OPERS’ social media tools such as our blog and Facebook, presentations throughout the state, the OPERS website, and specialty publications such as the Comprehensive Guide to Pension and Health Care Changes.

      Information on the COLA can be found today in many places, including the OPERS website and the Benefit Recipient Handbook.

      Julie, Ohio PERS

      Reply
      • May 18, 2017 at 7:09 am
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        The other change to the COLA is on hand book page 21. it states that retires before Jan. 7, 2013 will receive 3% fixed COLA

        Reply
      • May 22, 2017 at 8:25 am
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        I am trying to find information about COLA on OPERS website. I can’t find it. How can I find it?

        Reply
        • May 23, 2017 at 1:01 pm
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          Diane,

          Information on the COLA can be found in the Retirees section of the website. Click on “Retirees” at the top of the page, then “Benefit Changes” located on the left hand side of the page. “Cost of Living Adjustment” is the 6th item on the list.

          Or, you can follow this link: https://www.opers.org/retirees/changes/cola.shtml

          Hope that helps,

          Julie, Ohio PERS

          Reply
          • September 2, 2017 at 1:28 pm
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            The link only shows information for “Group A members who retire within the first five calendar years after Jan. 7, 2013 will receive a simple, 3 percent COLA until Dec. 31, 2018.” I retired on December 31, 2012 to take advantage of OPERS Handbook p.21 where it states that “RETIREES BEFORE Jan 7, 2013 WILL RECEIVE 3% FIXED COLA.”

            To change that now, after the fact and especially with the Market at record highs, is not only disingenuous but is a failure on OPERS part to adhere to the guidelines they themselves setup. I lost out on added years of service to my base pension calculation as well as additional earned annual income to take advantage of the FIXED 3% COLA ADJUSTMENT.

            SHAME ON OPERS FOR CHANGING THE RULES OF THE GAME AFTER THE FACT.

            I believe the new “rule” is likely OPERS accommodation of those who retired AFTER the Jan. 7, 2013 deadline to receive the fixed 3% COLA who are now complaining rather than a real fiscal responsibility.

  • May 3, 2017 at 10:20 am
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    My spouse is receiving some support from Opers on her health care this year. She will no longer be eligible to receive money from Opers next year under your rules. Will she be able to keep the same health care next year(2018) and what it may cost?

    Reply
    • May 4, 2017 at 7:58 am
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      Great question and good for you for planning ahead into 2018.
      If your spouse is pre-Medicare, you are correct-the amount that OPERS pays toward the cost of spousal (including surviving spouses) coverage is being reduced through an annual allowance to $0 by 2018. Spouses under age 65 are eligible to enroll in the OPERS Retiree Health Plan administered by Medical Mutual. As a result of the reduction, we recognize that some retirees may decide the premium to cover a spouse not yet eligible for Medicare is more than they can comfortably afford. We’ve included some helpful information on our website that goes into further detail which may be useful for planning purposes.

      If your spouse is Medicare-eligible, eligible spouses over age 65 and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B can enroll in an individual Medicare plan with the help of OneExchange. The amount that OPERS gives as an HRA allowance will be reduced to zero in 2018. At that time, spouses, including surviving spouses, can enroll in coverage through OneExchange, but will pay the full cost of the plan.

      Sincerely,
      OPERS

      Reply
  • May 5, 2017 at 9:07 am
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    is your retirement based on your last three years, or your three highest years

    Reply
    • May 5, 2017 at 9:12 am
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      Karen,

      It’s the average of your highest-earning calendar years, or final months in public service, whichever is higher. The calendar year measure applies in most cases.

      –Ohio PERS

      Reply
      • May 7, 2017 at 6:41 am
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        I was told that the three years must be consecutive years, not random years.

        Reply
        • May 8, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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          Joe,

          The years must be full calendar years, but they do not have to be consecutive years. Chapter 145.017(K)(1) of Ohio Revised Code covers this topic.

          –Ohio PERS

          Reply
  • May 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm
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    I am trying to apply for a refund. Which application do i fill out?

    Reply
    • May 10, 2017 at 10:38 am
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      George,

      Our member refunds page has lots of information about the type of refund you might want to apply for. If you have further questions, give us a call at 800-222-7377, or send us a message through your online account.

      –Ohio PERS

      Reply
  • May 25, 2017 at 6:43 pm
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    I get Social Security death benefits. When I retire what percentage of my OPERS will be deducted from the SS benefits.

    Reply
    • May 26, 2017 at 11:45 am
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      Judy,

      Your Social Security benefit may be impacted by your OPERS pension, not the other way around. Your OPERS pension is not affected by your Social Security benefit.

      Your local Social Security office can provide more detailed information on the GPO and WEP and the affect they may have on your Social Security benefit. To find a local office, visit the SSA website, http://www.ssa.gov/gpo-wep/, or call 1-800-772-1213.

      Good luck,

      Julie, Ohio PERS

      Reply
  • June 23, 2017 at 9:20 am
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    I was wondering if any of the potential changes with the new GOP healthcare plan would affect our healthcare costs. Specifically I’m wondering about the ability of insurance companies to charge older Americans 5 times more. Would that apply to OPERS or is that only for those who buy their insurance on the individual market?

    Reply
    • June 26, 2017 at 3:32 pm
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      We are watching closely what is happening in Washington on the health care front. No one is sure yet what changes will be made to the Affordable Care Act or when those changes will go into effect. We’ll keep you posted once we know more.

      Thank you

      Reply
  • June 29, 2017 at 6:24 pm
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    The Board of Elections in my county lost most of its OPERS retired seasonal help including me – one month or more because no one want to go to work for a month and change health care then change back and maybe do it again later in the year. What are the chances this changes thru the new health care so that so older people can work seasonal for Board of Elections rather than just several election days? I know and understand the 600.00 rule. And not just the Board of Elections, there are other opers positions that are seasonal that I can not do because of switching back and forth with the insurance. I feel like I have been penalized trying to pick up an extra dollar to pay for ever increasing health care. No one wants to be go thru changing back and forth for re-employed retirees when you are only working perhaps 1 month maybe twice a year, just imagine how messed up your insurance could get.

    Reply
    • July 14, 2017 at 9:42 am
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      Michael,

      OPERS is bound to follow federal health care laws and regulations. Under these rules, a stand-alone Health Reimbursement Arrangement does not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act as appropriate coverage for active public employees. But OPERS can offer an HRA to those who are solely retirees. Ohio law provides that OPERS’ re-employed retirees, whether they are full-time, part-time or seasonal, are active public employees while they remain publicly employed. OPERS would be subject to significant penalties if our retiree-only HRA included re-employed retirees.

      Thus, we offer the Humana Interim Medicare Plan for Medicare-age retirees who choose to go back to work with an OPERS-covered employer.

      We’re not certain what you mean by things changing “thru the new health care.” We are not implementing changes to our plans in this respect, and if you’re referring to the Affordable Care Act, we can’t speculate on what is happening with that federal law.

      –Ohio PERS

      Reply
  • July 10, 2017 at 11:56 am
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    I am enrolled in the OPERS Combined Plan. Recently I’ve noticed (though it may have happened longer) that my contributions do not reach my Defined Contribution account for several days following pay day.
    Sometimes the delay can be as much as 8-10 days after. I don’t see a similar pattern in monies that I defer to the Ohio 457 plan. Can you explain why this happens within the OPERS system?
    Thanks,
    Russ

    Reply
    • July 26, 2017 at 10:08 am
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      Russ,

      In general, employers are required to submit contribution reports and payment to OPERS by the end of the following month after the reporting period end date. If the employer uses our Employer Contribution System (ECS) to submit their contribution reports and payments, there is no processing required by OPERS staff and the contributions will automatically be credited to individual member accounts within one business day of receipt. For employers who submit contribution reports and payments manually, the contributions are posted to individual member accounts within approximately 2-3 business days of receipt. After the contribution is posted to a member’s account at OPERS, if they participate in the Member-Directed or Combined Plan, it takes one additional business day for the funds to be credited to the member’s investments.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • August 9, 2017 at 9:03 pm
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    It is nice to see that the Board wants to take my 3% cola since my wife is no longer covered by PERS I must pay for her health care which is more than the 3% I retired in 2002 you would think I would grandfathered in at my age hard to find a job and of course social security is not much when you have a gov. pension thanks Regan if opers is sound why do we keep losing benifits

    Reply
  • August 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm
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    I am wondering why I am not seeing member comments as a result of the recent posting of your video indicating OPERS intention to eliminate the 3% annual COLA for those retirees who accepted retirement by Jan. 7, 2013. My understanding when I accepted that retirement under the old retirement system, was that I would be guaranteed a the 3% annual COLA.

    Reply
  • August 24, 2017 at 4:46 pm
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    When my spouse becomes Medicare age will we receive any reimbursement for a plan purchased through One Exchange from my surpluses remaining after my reimbursement s have been made? How would this work and what would her rights be to my remaining surpluses if I die?

    Reply
    • August 30, 2017 at 2:26 pm
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      James,

      Thank you for your question. Upon your death, your surviving spouse and eligible dependents may use your remaining HRA balance for a) any qualified medical expenses incurred by you prior to your death and b) any ongoing medical expenses incurred by your spouse and eligible dependents until the fund is exhausted. The balance will remain for a rolling 24-month period, meaning when a claim is submitted, the 24-month period resets.
      More information about your HRA can be found on the OPERS website at https://www.opers.org/healthcare/plan-options/oneexchange/hra.shtml

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • September 8, 2017 at 2:37 am
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    What types of price changes on our health insurance can we expect starting in January 2018? Mine took a jump from $39 per month in 2016 to $118 per month in 2017. What are we looking at for 2018?

    Reply
    • September 8, 2017 at 9:26 am
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      Thank you for your comment. The retiree newsletter mailed this week and should arrive in homes and email boxes any day now. Also, Open Enrollment Guides will mail at the end of the month, arriving in homes early October. The retiree newsletter shows a few cost examples that our retirees may see which should help with planning purposes. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us through your secure, online account email channel or by calling at 1-800-222-7377.

      Thank you,
      OPERS

      Reply
      • September 17, 2017 at 11:53 pm
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        When are we to receive these newsletters? It been 10 days since you said they were sent out earlier that week. Nothing has been received here at home as of yet.

        Reply

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