OPERS answers member questions

Topics include investment returns, health care plan participation

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

March 19, 2018 – We receive many questions through our social media sites, but we can’t always post responses to them.

So periodically we’ll use our PERSpective blog to answer some of those questions that we believe will have widespread interest.

Q: I saw a report recently that stated Ohio House Bill 413, the COLA bill, will enable the OPERS board to make additional changes in the COLA any time they deem necessary in the future. Is that true?

A: No, that is not true. As drafted, there is a provision in the bill that would permit the Board to increase the COLA to 3 percent if certain criteria are met related to the strength of OPERS’ funding. Another provision would trigger further changes should the time required to pay off OPERS’ unfunded liabilities top 30 years. But nothing in the bill would give the OPERS Board of Trustees the ability to change the COLA any time it deems necessary.

Q: Last year was a good year for investments, and I noticed that pension funds fared pretty well. What action will OPERS take regarding benefits in the face of these returns?

A: Thanks for noticing that. Like other pension funds and most investors, OPERS did post solid returns in 2017. The OPERS Defined Benefit Portfolio returned approximately 16.8 percent to finish the year with a total market value of $86.7 billion. The OPERS Health Care Portfolio returned about 15.3 percent to end the year at $12.9 billion.

You can find these figures updated quarterly for all of our asset classes by visiting the Investment Information section of the OPERS website.

We need to note, however, that OPERS does not make critical decisions based on one year of investment returns. If we did, we’d be changing our plan every year. For instance, if we increased benefits every time our investments saw double-digit returns, it’s quite possible we’d have to decrease them the following year if the stock market declined.

Your retirement system is managed for the long haul – over a period of decades, not years.

Q: What Medicare health care plans are most popular this year, and what can you tell us about the plan for those under 65?

A: Here’s some information about the OPERS Retiree Health Plan as well as top picks made by OPERS Medicare-eligible retirees as reported by Via Benefits (formerly known as OneExchange).

About 4 percent of pre-Medicare plan participants made a change to existing medical coverage in the OPERS Retiree Health Plan by either adding or dropping coverage.

Regarding health care for our Medicare-eligible population, about 90 percent of those participants chose to remain enrolled in their 2017 medical and pharmacy plan(s) that automatically carried over into 2018. As of Jan. 1, here were the top plans for the OPERS Medicare population:

Top medical plans by insurance carrier:

  1. AARP United Healthcare
  2. Medical Mutual
  3. The Health Plan
  4. Humana

Top Medigap plan types:

  1. Medigap Plan F
  2. Medigap Plan N
  3. Medigap Plan G

Top prescription insurance carriers:

  1. Humana
  2. AARP United Healthcare
  3. SilverScript

Plan participants should not be concerned if the insurance carrier they selected is not listed as a top pick among OPERS retirees. Plans are selected based on personal needs and carrier availability, as coverage varies by region.

For questions about claims or plan-specific details, contact the carrier. If you have questions about the Health Reimbursement Arrangement, contact Via Benefits at 844-287-9945.

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

21 thoughts on “OPERS answers member questions

  • March 19, 2018 at 9:15 am
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    I’m currently coming up on 62 and reading all this stuff about the Medicare plans, medigap, prescription coverage, the connector etc and frankly I’m finding it all a bit overwhelming at the moment. I know it doesn’t effect me for a couple years so the real question here is are you going to continue to have classes on transitioning over to Medicare? I’d like to take one but closer to the transition date so that all the info is up to date and is fresh in my mind.

    Reply
    • March 29, 2018 at 5:09 pm
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      Lee,

      Congratulations on planning for the future — you can never start too soon. I encourage you to attend our “Transitioning to the Connector” seminar, either in person or online, presented by the OPERS Education team. Created for the pre-Medicare plan participant, this seminar helps those near Medicare eligibility prepare for their transition to an individual Medicare plan through the OPERS Medicare Connector. Registration must be completed through your OPERS online account or by calling OPERS at 1-800-222-7377. If you’re not able to attend in-person, you can log in to a live Transitioning to the Connector online webinar session or watch a video or recorded presentation. Visit the Educational Opportunities for Retirees section at opers.org for webinar topics, videos and recorded presentations.

      If you have questions, please call us at 1-800-222-7377 and a member of our staff would be happy to guide you through the process.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • March 19, 2018 at 3:06 pm
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    This is great! Keep it up!!!

    Reply
  • March 20, 2018 at 3:20 pm
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    Thank you for posting this information; it is very helpful. However, I am a bit concerned about the statement that our retirement system is managed over a period of decades and not years. Of course I can understand this, but what I find concerning is the fact that OPERS seems to be making changes to our retirement system every few years, not every few decades. If each of the changes had not been (or will not be) so profound for the retirees and those who will retire with a defined pension, it may be more tolerable. Again, thank you.

    Reply
  • March 22, 2018 at 5:34 pm
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    OPERS should have a survey of those understanding and using the HRA .

    I’m helping fellow retirees who don’t get it. OPERS needs to reach out to those retirees with very large HRA accounts.

    Reply
    • April 9, 2018 at 3:55 pm
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      How nice of you to help other retirees!

      We share your concern, and we developed a seminar specifically to help retirees better understand and manage their HRA. Topics include explanation of reimbursement types, what forms to use for different expenses, information for spouses and caregivers, and answers to common questions. The seminars are held around the state. More details are on the OPERS website at https://www.opers.org/retirees/seminars/seminar-how-to-use-hra.shtml.

      In addition we recently contacted those who are carrying large balances to make sure they understand their options.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • March 23, 2018 at 10:32 am
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    Are you going to continue to allow spouses under 65 to be carried on the health care at the full cost beyond 2018?

    Reply
    • March 29, 2018 at 3:36 pm
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      Terri,

      The Board finalizes plan selection and pricing every year and those details will be communicated in your fall newsletter.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • March 25, 2018 at 4:52 pm
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    Will Opers make any adjustments to the health costs for retirees paying the extra ACA break in expenses? The changed plans and benefits to avoid ‘Cadillac Plan’ taxes?

    Reply
    • March 29, 2018 at 3:32 pm
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      Mike,

      The Board finalizes plan selection and pricing every year and those details will be communicated in your fall newsletter.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
      • April 5, 2018 at 11:29 am
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        Thank you Julie. I look forward to that information.

        Reply
  • March 26, 2018 at 11:20 am
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    Will the HRA amount stay the same now and will the $300.00 stop for 2019

    Reply
    • March 26, 2018 at 2:55 pm
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      Mr. Lee,

      First, the Board finalizes plan selection and pricing every year, including the HRA amount, and those details will be communicated in your fall newsletter.

      Second, the additional $300 deposit to your HRA that you received in January was to ease the transition to the Connector. That transition period is complete and 2018 was the last year for the additional amount into your HRA.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • March 29, 2018 at 10:19 am
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    Would you please provide an update on the status of the pending COLA change (ie linked to CPI, etc.) legislation which I believe is before the state legislature?

    Reply
    • March 29, 2018 at 3:51 pm
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      Mr. Estock,

      Ohio House Bill 413, which contains the COLA proposal, is currently in the House Aging and Long Term Care Committee. Please check our COLA page for updates at https://www.opers.org/retirees/cola.shtml.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • March 30, 2018 at 9:31 am
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    Hello All,
    I looked through https://www.opers.org/retirees/cola.shtml, and one thing caught my eye immediately — “living longer”. Unfortunately, lifespan in the US is on a downward spiral – we’re not living until our mid 80’s any longer. If you’re basing the decreases in our pension/COLA on lifespan, please check current events more closely, or at least stop using this phrase in your explanations for cutting our health care, COLA, and making changes to our pensions.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • April 9, 2018 at 3:31 pm
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      On average, our members are 57 when they retire and contributed to our system for 23 years. Therefore, they can expect to live in retirement longer than they contributed. This creates financial challenges. Pension redesign in 2012 addressed this issue for active members. Active members will work longer and contribute more before they’re eligible to retire, and they’ll have lower monthly pensions than current retirees if they retire early.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
    • April 9, 2018 at 11:36 am
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      Larry,

      If you want to make a specific designation or change a previous designation, you can change your beneficiary designation at any time by logging in to your Online Account. Or you can update your beneficiary(ies) by downloading the Designation of Beneficiary form from the OPERS website. You can also call us at 1-800-222-7377 to request a form. More information on designating a beneficiary can be found on our website at https://www.opers.org/members/traditional/benefits/beneficiary.shtml.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply

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