HRA seminars having positive effect

Surveyed Medicare retirees say reimbursement process working better

By Bobbie O’Neil, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Aug. 7, 2018 – Over the past several weeks you may have attended or heard about OPERS delivering new education to Medicare retirees on how to use their Health Reimbursement Arrangement. The HRA is an account funded by OPERS that provides tax-free reimbursement for qualified medical expenses.

The monthly HRA allowance deposits can accumulate from month to month and, unlike most flexible spending accounts, the balance will roll over from year to year. Via Benefits (formerly OneExchange) administers the HRA.

I want to thank the retirees who shared their HRA frustrations with us and let you know that clearing up these frustrations is a priority to us at OPERS. Working together we have successfully created and implemented education to help retirees who are enrolled in a plan through the Connector better understand and manage their Health Reimbursement Arrangement. Topics include explanation of reimbursement types, what forms to use for different expenses, information for spouses and caregivers as well as common questions from retirees.

One of our largest goals is to provide retirees with the information they need to continue to be secure in their retirement. To identify if we were meeting this goal we surveyed members who attended these HRA events, and I am excited to share the results with you; I have provided the questions and responses:

  1. Main reason participants have not been using their HRA: 70 percent don’t know how; 22 percent say it’s overwhelming; 8 percent say they’re saving it in case they need surgery.
  2. Level of understanding prior to the event: 5.26 out of 10
  3. Level of understanding after the event: 7.88 out of 10
  4. Likelihood of submitting a claim for reimbursement after the event: 83 percent say it’s very likely.
  5. Have someone who can assist them with their HRA: 62 percent say yes.

We continue to be committed to our vision in being your trusted retirement partner delivering high quality service every time, all the time.

    • The list of educational resources, including ‘How to use your HRA’ seminars, can be found on the OPERS website at Upcoming HRA seminars will be held in Toledo (Aug. 7), Akron (Aug. 14), Bellville (Aug. 22), Columbus (Aug. 23), Independence (Sept. 11), Zanesville (Sept. 19), Portsmouth (Sept. 19) and Westlake (Sept. 25).

      Julie, OPERS

  • It is time for OPERS to consider increasing the monthly amount of the HRA. Since implementing the changes to the health program, premium increases have eaten up the HRA. Once increases happen for 2019, the HRA will not keep up with or cover the increases . Time for an increase.

    • The OPERS Board reviewed the 2019 allowance amount and chose to continue the same HRA amount to prolong the life of the health care fund. The health care trust fund is not being funded by employer contributions, and is supported only by investment returns.

      Julie, OPERS

  • 92% state that they are not using their HRA because it is “overwhelming” or they don’t know how! Come on people – one can either call VIA or a co-retiree to answer your questions regarding completing the not complicated forms. Certainly easier than trying to figure out some medical bills.

    • I was one of the overwhelmed. All the paperwork from Medicare + EOBs from Suppl. Ins. + Invoices. It was confusing trying to collate them, then figure out which papers to submit with the reimbursement form. Finally, called ViaBenefits and was told only need to submit the EOB for prescription reimbursement. Duh! How simple was that. Have been very successful in submitting and receiving my reimbursements, usually in a 2 week turnaround time. Thank you OPERS for providing this for us retirees.

  • I wish you would have a seminar at the location near the Dayton Mall. You did have some at a Motel near the Dayton Mall. It was so easy to get to and the traffic is good at that location.

    • Thank you for your question. We are always looking for new places to host our events and welcome your suggestions. We try to book venues that can accommodate as many members as possible. While there may be more convenient venues, they may not support our needs or may not be available.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I will start Medicare in January 2019, I have a January birthday, would I be able to attend a late fall seminar, if they are offered then? I would like to attend a seminar before I start using the forms so I am familiar with them and do it all correctly from the start, is that possible? Or do I have to wait until I actually start the HRA?

  • I applied to retire in January 2018 and retired effective April 1, 2018. When I attended the HRA seminar in June I suggested to a OPERS person that such instruction should be given to retirees BEFORE their retirement date. This might prevent some confusion. By the time of the seminar I had already figured out the process, but only after mistakes and many calls to VIA with questions. The OPERS person indicated that she was sure I was notified of a seminar as “we have these all the time.” I didn’t want to get into an argument, but I wasn’t notified. Maybe your notification process isn’t working?

    • You can find a schedule for each of our presentations on the the OPERS website at In addition, we send an email to members living in the area to alert them of an upcoming seminar. We use the email address in your online account. If you aren’t receiving our emails, you may want to double check the address that is listed in your account.

      Julie, OPERS

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