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

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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

    • Terri,

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

      Julie, OPERS

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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?

  • 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.

    • 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

    • 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

  • I read that a OPERS representative testified before the Ohio legislators that OPERS is not adding to the Healthcare fund anymore. Is that true. And is OPERS doing away with the Healthcare fund?

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

      Julie, OPERS

    • No, Mary, you will not lose your surviving spouse benefit if you remarry.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I’m 80 years old and work part time as a volunteer driver for our county VA office. While I’m considered a volunteer, I am compensated. 10% of this compensation is deducted for PERS. This appears to me to be a donation, since I will never live long enough to withdraw. I don’t believe this is fair. Do you?

    • Once you stop working you will receive your contributions, allowable interest and an additional matching amount as a lump sum payment or as a monthly annuity benefit.
      If you choose to receive monthly benefits, joint and survivor options are also available. For more information, go to the re-employment page on the OPERS website at https://www.opers.org/retirees/re-employment/index.shtml. If you have more questions, please call us at 1-800-222-7377.

  • With the reduction to retiree Health Reimbursement Accounts beginning in 2022 and the pending reduction in COLA, OPERS needs to get proactive in repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset (WEP/GPO) for Ohio employees/retirees. Absolutely nothing has been done about these provisions that reduce social security for retirees who have paid into both OPERS and Social Security. I get a measly $198/month from Social Security even though I am fully vested. Further, I am denied the Homestead Reduction on my property taxes which is worth about $900 a year because they count my OPERS pension as income where Social Security benefits are not counted as income for property tax purposes. I feel this is totally unfair especially in light of the reduction in benefits OPERS is instituting. What is OPERS doing about the WEP/GPO? Should retirees be contacting our State congresspeople? Groceries, insurance, and all consumer goods are going up at and alarming rate and our OPERS benefits are not keeping pace.

    • Pamela,

      OPERS has repeatedly advocated for WEP relief. As you may not know, this is a federal issue, not a state issue. There currently are two WEP-related bills pending in Congress this year, but with the coronavirus and election being big issues, we haven’t heard much about them. The next possible time there could be movement would likely be after the election.

  • I am currently a OPERS retired member of Humana in Ohio. But I’m going to be moving to Georgia. What is the procedure to change all the healthcare I have? I also am on Medicare!

    • Catherine,
      If you are enrolled into coverage through our Medicare Connector please contact Via Benefits at 1-844-287-9945 to find out what options you have.
      Thanks, MS

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