OPERS Board to focus on retiree health care

Discussions over the next several months will examine program funding

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Oct. 29, 2018 – At the October Board of Trustees meeting, OPERS staff presented a historical look at the way we have made health care coverage available to retirees and highlighted the issues the plan continues to face.

Annually, we evaluate our health care plan design and make the necessary changes to align with health care trends, cost and funding.  From time to time, we must take a deeper look at our plan offerings as well as the state of our Health Care Fund. Over the next several months, the OPERS Board will thoroughly discuss our health care plans with the goal of positioning them for both current and future retirees.

There are several issues at hand, including the fact that the retiree population is changing with baby boomers retiring, retirees living longer and spending more years in retirement, and the 65-and-over retiree group growing.

Also, we currently are faced with funding challenges. Unlike in years past, in 2018 OPERS is allocating no employer contributions to the health care fund. Until pension liabilities stabilize, the health care fund will continue to rely only on investment returns. We’re in a highly volatile investment market, and that will always be a threat to offering access to health care.

It is important to remember that health care is discretionary; it cannot jeopardize pension funding. While we understand that health care coverage is part of a meaningful retirement, our retirees’ pensions are a guaranteed benefit and must be funded first.

Let’s take a brief look at OPERS’ history of offering retiree health care:

  • 1962: OPERS offers health care for the first time, with retirees paying the full cost.
  • 1974: OPERS establishes the Health Care Trust Fund and funds retiree health care for the first time, for retirees with just five years of service. Spouses and dependents receive access.
  • 1986: We change eligibility from five years to 10 years of service.
  • 2007-09: OPERS makes significant plan design changes, including establishing monthly allowances based on service only, creating tiered plans with differing coverage, altering our health care funding mechanism and implementing a Medicare Advantage program.
  • 2012: We make the most-significant changes to date in order to preserve health care coverage. They include establishing the OPERS Medicare Connector for those over 65, ending allowances for spouses and dependents, ceasing Medicare Part B reimbursements and basing allowances on age and service.

While these changes assisted in reducing cost and enabled us to continue to provide health care, OPERS continues to be at the mercy of rising health care costs nationwide. We expect that they’ll continue to increase as new technologies and medical advances come to the forefront, and because we’ll be providing access to health care for longer periods of retirement.

In summary, providing health care coverage continues to be a challenge for the organization. Health care revenues need to fully support health care expenses. That creates a challenge on how to balance our revenues (typically investment income and the amount retirees share in the cost of the monthly premiums) with the ever-increasing price tag of providing access to coverage.

Further, health care funding is subordinate to pension funding. When market downturns occur, funding health care is greatly jeopardized, and we must implement health care plan design changes.

OPERS Board and staff will meet regularly each month to conduct a thorough review of the health care program. We will take a hard look at eligibility, coverage options and how we will offer health care in the future.

We will invite stakeholder groups as we did when we made changes in 2012. We also intend to solicit feedback from retirees through surveys and presentations throughout the process.

We will continue to communicate progress and decisions made through this review.

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

86 thoughts on “OPERS Board to focus on retiree health care

  • October 29, 2018 at 12:32 pm
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    I’m very interested in future discussion points

    Reply
    • October 31, 2018 at 12:35 pm
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      We are just beginning our review of our health care offerings, trends, funding and costs – both for OPERS and for retirees. Members and retirees will have the ability to provide feedback on future actions. Keep up-to-date with Board activity by reading your newsletter, the PERSpective blog and other communications from OPERS.

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm
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    OPERS Health care funding relies upon market returns. The market just tanked to near 0% return for the year. Will benefits change?

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    • October 29, 2018 at 6:25 pm
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      We are just beginning our review of our health care offerings, health care trends, funding and costs – both for OPERS and for retirees. We want to make sure they are well-positioned for both current and future retirees. Over the next several months, the Board will be taking a thorough review of the health care program and will solicit feedback from all of our stakeholders. Look for more information soon.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
    • October 30, 2018 at 6:43 am
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      Not sure what market you are referring to; from what I see and the interest increases I am getting on my savings-the market seems to be doing better than it has for years. Every time OPERS seems to “look” at healthcare, it means to prepare for another cut. You all need to keep in mind-those that have retired rely heavily on their healthcare-the working employees still have a wage and should be taking the hit this time. After all, our spouses took a real hit as did we with One Exchange hitting us the very year we retired.

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      • October 31, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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        We know how important health care is to our retirees, but funding pensions are out first priority. We continue to work to maintain access to health care for current and future retirees.

        Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 12:50 pm
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    it gets Scarier every day.

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    • October 31, 2018 at 12:35 pm
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      We realize the changes to the health care program can be hard. Please know we’re doing all we can to maintain the health care program. Continue to read your newsletter, Facebook and the blog for the most up-to-date information.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 12:53 pm
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    it seems that seniors are and will continue to be faced with the “buy medicine or buy food”
    dilemma. Any kind of increase i get annually is more than taken by increased premiums. Prices
    continue to go up way higher than any increase received monthly.

    Reply
    • October 31, 2018 at 12:34 pm
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      We know how important health care is to our retirees. That’s why we carefully review our health care offerings, health care trends, funding and costs – both for OPERS and for retirees. The Board will take a thorough look at the health care program, particularly at what we offer to pre-Medicare retirees. Look for more information soon.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 1:01 pm
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    Thank you so much for what you have done and are doing to facilitate our access to health care options. You have my total confidence that you will do everything that is possible to maintain this benefit. I look forward to future communication about your research and pending decisions regarding any adjustments you deem prudent. I know just how important this benefit is to me and other retirees and certainly urge you to invest ultimate time and attention in trying to maintain a health plan offering. With regards, again I thank you.

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    • October 31, 2018 at 12:34 pm
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      Thanks, Jewell. We value the confidence you have placed in us. We are just beginning the review process. Stay up-to-date by reading your retiree newsletter, Facebook and the OPERS blog.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 1:05 pm
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    Here we go again changing what retirees were told at retirement. I have a suggestion-make your changes with those still working. They at least have a choice to keep working. That way you won’t have to tell them one thing and do another when they retire. You better believe I am angry. Retirees paid their dues and deserve better!!!

    Reply
    • November 1, 2018 at 10:46 am
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      Future retirees are already contributing more of their salary toward their retirement, working longer and getting less of a benefit than current retirees. Increasing contribution rates even further could prompt members to look at options other than the OPERS Defined Benefit plan. When a member chooses to leave the Defined Benefit plan, their contributions go with them, instead of going into the pension trust fund for the overall good of the System.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 1:57 pm
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    Please look at the law enforcement health care ruling . I know they can retire at 25 yrs at 50 years of age and yes they can get another job so they can have health, but it is such a shock to them as to where to go to find the best type of health care until they are age 65. If maybe you can help or advise? They have given their life for their job and I sort of feel they need more help than the regular OPERS retiree. I am 73 and a OPERS retiree and so happy of what you provide for us, it’s my son who is in the Law Enforcement Ruling, and with everything going on the guys with 25yrs are really burned out, I just would like to see him helped a little more. Thank you for listening to me.

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  • October 29, 2018 at 2:21 pm
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    As I near my own retirement I admit the thought of losing access to healthcare thru OPERS makes me nervous. I don’t know what retirement would look like without access to healthcare via OPERS. Maybe that wouldn’t be as scary as it seems. I don’t know. I appreciate this heads-up and look forward to add’l communication regarding the thinking and decisions being considered in this area. Info for retirees and others like me about how to plan for health care in the future would be most welcome. Thanks!

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    • October 31, 2018 at 12:32 pm
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      Thanks, Michelle. We are just beginning the review process. Stay up-to-date by reading your member newsletter, Facebook and the OPERS blog.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm
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    I am an employee with 36 years of service, group A, yet I am 9 years from Medicare. Will you be making these changes by group? I am looking for advice in that how am I supposed to plan when I can retire with all of these changes coming about? When will these decisions be announced that you are talking about?

    Reply
    • October 29, 2018 at 6:11 pm
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      No plans have been made, Kim. We are just beginning the review process.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
    • October 29, 2018 at 6:21 pm
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      Take the biggest plop you can and put in deferd comp I am in the same boat as you

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 3:07 pm
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    I value the fact that OPERS will solicit input from the retirees. I can only hope that the survey(s) will be more scientific than the survey a year ago and do not force the respondant into choices that seem to fit the agenda of the staff and the board. Forced choice answers feel bad to the person answering. Ask some of the faculty at OSU in Public Health or staff at the Ohio Department of Health how to put together a valid survey.

    Reply
    • October 29, 2018 at 10:30 pm
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      I agree w Frank. It was not a fair survey. I felt pushed into a corner and did not like any of the options provided on survey.

      Reply
      • October 31, 2018 at 12:09 pm
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        Members and retirees will have the ability to provide feedback on future actions. Keep abreast of Board activity by reading your retiree newsletter, the PERSpective blog and other communications from OPERS.

        Julie, OPERS

        Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 3:15 pm
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    Leave the over 65 coverage alone. This group is least able to get coverage elsewhere. Make avaiable coverage at a cost close to what it would cost for under 65 coverage. Cover the disabled also.

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  • October 29, 2018 at 3:35 pm
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    Just wonder why the medicare coverage that is sent to our homes is so much less then what we are paying for the what appears to be same plans . Some are zero cost – but look in the medicare book that is sent out still not the same costs all appear to be less – some plans are all inclusive – vision- dental script.

    Reply
    • November 7, 2018 at 12:55 pm
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      Ellen,

      Costs do vary by plan type, insurer and location. There are a couple of reasons why:

      1. There are some insurance carriers on the Via Benefits roster that only offer plans in certain counties. Before an insurer decides to offer a plan, they assess things like how many people reside within that county, what the competition looks like, is it oversaturated, what type of providers are in the area, cost of living, etc. There’s a wide variety of reasons why an insurance carrier may or may not want to offer a plan within a certain area.

      2. On the flip side, some insurance carriers have a plan on Medicare.gov, but don’t offer it on the Via Benefits roster. They may not want to be represented on an exchange platform which means following Via Benefits’ guidelines as well as foregoing commission that would be otherwise earned by not being on the platform.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
      • November 13, 2018 at 8:21 am
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        Overall I think the change to go with VIA Benefits is better than what we had before for the over 65 retirees. This way I can choose the plan which best suits my needs.

        Having the Monthly Health Care Allowance is great for as long as it lasts, as health care is a discretionary benefit.
        But with rising Health Care Costs as long as I retain my COLA I think I will be OK.

        Reply
        • November 14, 2018 at 11:13 am
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          Thanks, James. We’re happy the health care plan is working well for you.

          Julie, OPERS

          Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 4:28 pm
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    You already eat up 90plus percent of my raise with healthcare increases . Then you try and take away my 3% raise . How the hell are we going to make it ? We counted on your promises , why are you changing the end line results ? I am under the Medicare eligibility , what options are you leaving us who are? My employer and you always told me you would over health care ! I thought I paid my part of my pension in , the employers part was for health care , was this correct or not ?

    Reply
    • October 31, 2018 at 12:30 pm
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      Only the employer contribution can be used to fund Health Care. Funding pensions comes first. If there is money left over, we set aside those funds toward health care.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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    Will this also affect the HRA for retirees on Medicare?

    Reply
    • October 31, 2018 at 12:29 pm
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      Mark – We are just beginning our review of our health care offerings, trends, funding and costs – both for OPERS and for retirees. The Board will take a thorough review of the health care program, particularly at what we offer to pre-Medicare retirees. Look for more information soon.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 4:59 pm
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    I hope this will not happen !! You work all your life and this is the thanks we get !! I lost my husband a year ago and was informed by social security that all I get from his social security is $171.00 a month ! He paid into social security 50 plus years and because I get a pension from Pers this is all I get VERY SAD !!! Someone needs to look into this and get it changed !! I live on a very fixed income and don’t know what I would do if this happens !

    Reply
      • November 5, 2018 at 7:34 pm
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        Reducing Social Security payments to people with other pensions was done during the Reagan administration. When I retired, my Social Security was reduced by 55 percent, with no spouse involvement. All the politicians say they are looking into it, but nothing is done. You can keep your SS at full of you worked 25 or 30 years under it, but you have to have earned a certain amount each year. In the sixties, seventies and still today women don’t meet the earning requirements since they do not earn as much as men even though they are working full time and do not take time off for children, aging relatives, etc. And things are now going even more backwards from Washington. Totally unfair to work 41 years total and get such a small pension and SS. People working today at minimum wage won’t get credit for those years when they retire because earnings will be too low, and as you know it is worse if you have a spouse. Having a husband means you probably got to buy a house, but usually not if you are an unmarried woman.

        Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm
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    Will the changes affect the board members of OPERS?

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    • October 31, 2018 at 12:27 pm
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      Yes — Board members are active/retired members, so they will be impacted. None of the Board members are paid for their service.

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 5:18 pm
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    Will retirees be offered at place at the discussion table to confirm their side of the issue will be given a voice? Thanks

    Reply
    • October 31, 2018 at 12:27 pm
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      We are just beginning our review of our health care offerings, trends, funding and costs – both for OPERS and for retirees. Over the next several months, the Board will be taking a thorough review of the health care program and will solicit feedback from all of our stakeholders. Look for more information soon.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
    • October 31, 2018 at 12:41 pm
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      Not sure your answer addressed my question. I know in the past OPERS has been good to solicit replies to surveys regarding different issues, but a place at the table when survey questions are drafted would very welcomed. Thank you

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 6:46 pm
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    When will the monthly premiums stop rising??? These increases in the last 3 years have been unbelievable!!!!

    Reply
    • November 1, 2018 at 11:17 am
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      Although premiums for the OPERS pre-Medicare plan have increased in recent years, OPERS still pays the majority of the total plan cost.

      As the cost of health care continues to rise, our pre-Medicare plan has become increasingly expensive – for both OPERS and retirees. Due to the cost of the plan, participants are finding cheaper coverage elsewhere or just waiting longer to retire because of the increased costs. Members are also remaining on the plan due to poor health.

      As a result, our participant numbers are going down while our costs are increasing every year. We realize changes to the health care program can be hard. Please know we don’t make these decisions lightly and only after careful analysis and discussion. We’re doing all we can to maintain the health care program.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
      • November 1, 2018 at 4:14 pm
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        Maybe it’s time to look around for different companies? I do know there is no choice where I live in Ohio-you’re stuck with Medical Mutual which is no good and was no good when I was working. Bad coverage, high out of pocket and deductibles and premiums. Where is the choice? Maybe we should be looking out of state for something more reasonable?

        Reply
        • November 9, 2018 at 10:39 am
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          OPERS selects a health care provider after the completion of an exhaustive Request for Proposal, search and interview process. Several factors are considered before a provider is selected, including the amount of coverage offered, availability across the state and cost – both for OPERS and for retirees.
          The OPERS Retiree Health Plan is a network/PPO plan that gives you access to an extensive list of doctors, hospitals and other health care professionals, unlimited lifetime maximum and prescription drug coverage. By comparison, a plan with a Health Maintenance Organization, or HMO, is less expensive but will have less coverage and more restrictions.

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      • November 1, 2018 at 6:45 pm
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        Interesting. One can only find less expensive pre-medicare healthcare plans if they are eligible for government funded subsidies, or they buy plans with much higher deductibles and co- insurance. I can’t imagine that many are leaving. And if you are staying employed, that just reduces OPERS costs, so that makes no sense as to why costs are up. Costs are up because retirees live longer and healthcare costs are simply going up for EVERYONE because of insurance greed, and the cost of new technologies/devices and pharma etc are outpacing what any insurance company wants to cover/reduce profit margins. Just be honest.

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        • November 7, 2018 at 12:41 pm
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          Health care costs continue to rise and OPERS is not immune to those increases.

          Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 7:18 pm
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    The HRA I receive now early covers my health and prescription and even increasing Part B…..I have to pay for medicines and co pays and deductibles out of pocket and that is difficult enough. Please consider the current senior retirees and the 30 years they have put into OPERS…..

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    • October 31, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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      Jane, we are just beginning the review process. The Board will take a thorough review of the health care program, particularly at what we offer to pre-Medicare retirees. Stay up-to-date by reading your retiree newsletter, Facebook and the OPERS blog.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 7:22 pm
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    I am permanantly disabled. I am not able to work and receive medical coverage. Yet, I am not 65 and eligible for Medicare. Changes to, or elimination of healthcare benefits for the pre-medicare disabled OPERS members would be devastating. Please consider keeping our healthcare benefits.

    Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 7:34 pm
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    I’m suggesting a 1-2% phased-in increase in PERS deduction for employees who are currently working..OR -a fixed-dollar amount-per-paycheck..dedicated to healthcare ONLY. This may be able to help pay for their healthcare costs once they are able to retire. They certainly do need to voice their opinions on this issue.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 10:43 am
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      Future retirees are already contributing more of their salary toward their retirement, working longer and getting less of a benefit than current retirees. Increasing contribution rates even further could prompt members to look at options other than the OPERS Defined Benefit plan. When a member chooses to leave the Defined Benefit plan, their contributions go with them, instead of going into the pension trust fund for the overall good of the System. Also, under current law, only the employer contribution can be used to fund health care. Funding pensions is our first priority. If there is money left over, we can set aside those funds toward health care.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
      • November 1, 2018 at 11:05 am
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        The younger employees that work with me would be glad to pay more to keep it. us in the A group had PERS money’ ear marked for health I paid 30 years in to it and plan to work 33 years I hope they can help the newer employees down the road

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    • November 1, 2018 at 3:51 pm
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      Thanks Julie for your appreciated response. I’m thinking the Ohio Legislature could possibly take up the issue of healthcare costs for OPERS employees..and possibly increase the OPERS employer contribution by 1-percentage point..or a fixed-dollar amount to be dedicated to healthcare only. Current OPERS employees -AND retirees- should not have to be constantly concerned over retirement Healthcare costs. Also, we now have Representative Devin Nunes (CA) sponsoring H.R. 6290 PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSION TRANSPARENCY ACT dealing with all Public Employee Pensions. It seems that now even the Feds want to get into the business of OPERS pension legislation enactment. What gives with that?

      Reply
      • November 7, 2018 at 12:42 pm
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        Ron,

        Our Government Relations staff keeps in close contact with the Ohio delegation, and are carefully watching the discussion about H.R. 6290, known as PEPTA. We have voiced our opposition to the bill because the proposal would impose federal reporting mandates regarding OPERS’ funding and pension obligations, and threatens the tax-exempt status of Ohio’s government bonds.

        We believe PEPTA would provide a misleading picture of public retirement system financing because public retirement systems nationwide would be required to report their finances using pessimistic and unrealistic assumptions about investment returns and asset values. As a result, unfunded liabilities would appear to be artificially inflated, and their funding obligations distorted. For the vast majority of public retirement systems, PEPTA is a federally-mandated solution to a problem that does not exist.

        This is the fifth time the legislation has been introduced. It is pending in Congress.

        Julie

        Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 8:15 pm
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    Make no changes for those already retired. Concentrate on those who will be retiring in the future. When we had that group policy that you later cancelled, I could not see a doctor for two years. No one where I lived was taking patients. The company gave me a list and everyone on it was retired or dead. I am pretty happy with my supplemental plan and will not go back to an HMO with no doctors, and I don’t live in a rural area or abandoned city. People don’t seem to realize that to join a supplemental plan you have to undergo underwriting, unless you live in California or Washington state, unless you sign up for it when you first get Medicare. We got to join because our previous insurance was cancelled. This won’t be the case in the future. The Medicare Advantage plans are giving zero dollar premiums but with $6,000 deductibles required each year. Who can afford that.

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  • October 29, 2018 at 8:25 pm
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    Pre- medicare healthcare is extremely important. However, if push came to shove, I would much rather keep the 3% COLA. Our pensions are for long haul.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:47 pm
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      I agree, I am on Medicare and I would also would rather keep my guaranteed 3 percent COLA than the discretionary health care allowance.
      But it is better to have both.

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    • November 16, 2018 at 9:06 pm
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      Are you sure. My annual increase is just two digits. My HRA amount is three digits. You must get a huge raise each year. Maybe people with extremely high pension amounts should get to choose the COLA and people who get pennies can choose the HRA.

      Reply
  • October 29, 2018 at 10:00 pm
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    Thank you for taking a look at our Health possibilities for insurance. We have been forced into our current solution. At the current process we have to keep paying more each year with a lower reimbursement. In many cases we will not be able to afford and health insurance. The cost of health care will destroy our retirement. That is unfair to what we worked for. I don’t care what was guaranteed or not.

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    • October 31, 2018 at 12:10 pm
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      Gilbert, we continue to look for ways to strengthen the pension fund. Only by strengthening the pension fund are we able to set aside more money for health care.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • October 30, 2018 at 11:51 am
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    Why hasn’t OPERS raised the amount being deducted from paychecks to help sustain the pension like the other retirement systems. We are still at 10%. What effect would raising it a couple percent with 1% toward pension and the other 1% going toward healthcare. I believe the last time this was raised has been around 10 years ago.

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    • October 31, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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      Future retirees are already paying more for their retirement, working longer and getting less of a benefit than current retirees.

      Julie, OPERS

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      • October 31, 2018 at 3:11 pm
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        If this is the case, what is the real problem? If future retirees are already paying more into their retirement, working longer and receiving less benefits – there is definitely a big problem. The year I retired spouses were cut (unless you could afford to pay cobra) which should have helped tremendously with the cost of healthcare! Yet, there seems to be more issues?

        Reply
        • November 1, 2018 at 10:21 am
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          The changes made to spousal coverage helped extend the life of the Health Care fund, but OPERS is not immune to the rising cost of health care. The Board will take a thorough review of the health care program, particularly at what we offer to pre-Medicare retirees. Stay up-to-date by reading your retiree newsletter, Facebook and the OPERS blog.

          Julie, OPERS

          Reply
      • October 31, 2018 at 9:27 pm
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        At least they have jobs. Retirees are getting older and usually sicker and will not be able to get back into the workforce.

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  • October 31, 2018 at 2:04 pm
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    I’m a disabled retiree not eligible for Medicare. It scares me to think that the pre-Medicare group will be affected by changes to the healthcare plan. Please consider continuing healthcare coverage for disabled recipients not eligible for Medicare.

    Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 4:20 pm
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    I just read the most recent blog about th heath of the US economy. This was very good information. I wish it had been written a bit differently tho, so that more people would take interest in it and be able to understand it more readily. And that idea brought me back to this blog about the health care insurance and to review again and read the commentary.
    First, I’m most appreciative of OPERS and their ability to manage the annuity and the health care fund. For anyone that doesn’t think they do a good job, please see the recent PBS Frontline production about the failing public retirement system in Kentucky. They did not manage their fund well and ultimately it will collapse (unless it can be bailed out with huge tax increases) and those retirees will have next to nothing. This is extremely serious for everyone in a public pension as KY is just the beginning of failing public retirement systems. We are very, very fortunate to have a system that was managed wisely for a long time and is very stable and well funded. All members must support the board, the legislator, the OPERS non-profit advocates and their advisors for ongoing good management.
    Now, back to my first statement. I wish that there was a simple, easy to understand article from OPERS that would break down how our health care insurance works and is managed. The different groups, what it costs, pre, post Medicare, not eligible for Medicare etc. It has gotten fairly complicated with the necessary changes over the past ten years. And people forget how it is all supposed to work. Or had misunderstandings about what was guaranteed, etc. A very simple, break it all down, fact sheet would be very, very helpful. The key to making any changes successfully will be when members thoroughly understand the current system and the stressors on that system. And then explain the changes needed.
    I am truly very sorry for the retirees that are not Medicare eligible. Especially those people that would find it very hard to work for additional income, largely because of age or health. I was lucky in that I started working when I was 16 and and did some parttime work for fun and just by pure luck, managed to have enough Social Security credits to qualify for Medicare. I wish OPERS would do more education with working members to explain how important it is to get their SS credits for Medicare. While they are young enough to get some public sector work here and there. I’ve heard too many stories about people getting ready to retire and discovering they are not eligible to receive Medicare. Their only option then is what OPERS can provide, and there are no guarantees for how good of a plan they will offer or if they will offer one at all, or buying their own coverage thru the ACA. Or keeping working with a job in the private sector.
    Which brings me to my last point. I’ve read several comments here from people who are going to be in a bad way if/when there are changes to the OPERS health care insurance program. This, and my previous point, should make clear to everyone how important the concept of “Medicare for All” is for the overall health of our country. Access to affordable health care is critical to everyone at some point in their life and the current path we are on, not just in OPERS but costs of care and insurance everywhere in the US, is not sustainable. The more people who can’t get health care, the more everyone else will be dragged down. This is not a thought or belief, it’s scientific, statistical analysis. Outside of general eroding economic conditions and climate changes, health care is likely the next most serious issue for stability and safety of this country. Therefore I hope that in OPERS’s lobbying efforts at the state and national levels they are committed to expanding Medicare to every citizen.
    Thanks, again, for all you do.

    Reply
    • November 1, 2018 at 8:47 pm
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      Well written Tom. Remember though, that state, county and city employees hired after 1984 were required to pay into Medicare, so most of the folks currently employed should have the 40 quarters required to qualify for Medicare benefits. Those employed before 1984, who never left their original employer, are the ones in a bad situation if OPERS stops paying for their Medicare Part A and B. ( unless you have a spouse who qualifies)

      Reply
      • November 7, 2018 at 12:40 pm
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        OPERS reimburses retirees at 100 percent for their Medicare Part A premium and at 50 percent for their spouse’s Medicare Part A premium. Reimbursement also covers any penalties that may apply. However, the retiree must select a plan through the OPERS Medicare Connector to receive the Medicare Part A premium reimbursement.

        Julie, OPERS

        Reply
    • November 16, 2018 at 4:41 pm
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      Disagree with Medicare for all which is the same thing as “free healthcare” which will never work. Nothing is free; someone is paying for that healthcare. Could be us or our children will be burdened with not only providing healthcare for their own families but for everyone else also. Socialized healthcare will not work.

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 4:29 pm
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    I would hope Opers will include retiree advocacy groups in the evaluation of retiree healthcare. There must be discussion if serious changes are considered. Retiree advocacy groups needs to be part of that discussion.

    Reply
    • November 7, 2018 at 12:50 pm
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      Yes, members and retirees will have the ability to provide feedback on future actions. Keep abreast of Board activity by reading your retiree newsletter, the PERSpective blog and other communications from OPERS.

      Reply
  • November 1, 2018 at 11:35 am
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    How does the strength and viability , or even the existence of the ACA as part of the overall health care system affect the OPERS Health Care Trust Fund ? Are we isolated from other systems or does the success or failure of one produce ripples that effect others ?

    Reply
    • November 16, 2018 at 2:43 pm
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      OPERS must comply with all federal laws that apply to sponsoring a health plan, including the Affordable Care Act, known as the ACA. So, any changes to the ACA may impact OPERS’ retiree health plan.

      Reply
      • November 16, 2018 at 4:43 pm
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        How does the ACA affect OPERS heathcare? Not sure I understand why this is so.

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        • November 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm
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          Dan,

          OPERS must follow all federal laws that apply to sponsoring a health care plan, including the Affordable Care Act. We sponsor health care plans for pre-Medicare, disability and re-employed retirees. As a health care sponsor, OPERS’ health care plans may be impacted by changes to the Affordable Care Act.

          Hope that helps,

          Julie, OPERS

          Reply
  • November 1, 2018 at 12:48 pm
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    I am very concerned for the future considering this statement; “Unlike in years past, in 2018 OPERS is allocating no employer contributions to the health care fund”. Is this the beginning of the end for retiree health care coverage? How long is the health care fund currently solvent for? Thx.

    Reply
    • November 7, 2018 at 12:44 pm
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      Currently the health care fund will last 12 years. The purpose of providing the information in our most-recent blogs is to give you a sense of the challenges we’re facing. We are just beginning our review of our health care offerings, trends, funding and costs – both for OPERS and for retirees. We want to make sure they are well-positioned for both current and future retirees. Over the next several months, the Board will be taking a thorough review of the health care program and will solicit feedback from all of our stakeholders. Look for more information soon.

      Reply
  • November 2, 2018 at 3:57 pm
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    I am a pre-Medicare(retired at 55) retiree. It will be 3 years since I retired. During discussions with a rep in Columbus couple of years before I retired I was told after three years my Health Insurance will be capped. I am assuming this is not the case anymore? Although I appreciate the COLA increase every year, the rise in Health Insurance pretty much keeps me at the status quo. I am very aware of rising costs in all aspects of just living.. Thank you

    Reply
    • November 9, 2018 at 10:39 am
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      Your health care is not capped. What changed was the amount OPERS paid toward your health care.
      A little history: Beginning in 2016, for pre-Medicare retirees the amount OPERS pays toward the total monthly cost of your coverage, known as an allowance, is based on your qualifying years of service at retirement and your age when you first enrolled in the OPERS health care plan. In order to make the transition to the new health care plan flow more smoothly, OPERS provided a higher allowance amount for the first three years. Between 2016 and 2018, the monthly allowance amount was decreased each year until the final allowance percentage was reached in 2018.
      What you are receiving now is your final allowance percentage.
      Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 so that we can answer your questions and review your health care eligibility.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • November 5, 2018 at 1:26 pm
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    Hi Julie,
    I would be interested in seeing minutes of each meeting the Board has regarding our health care. Certainly, someone takes minutes at a public org. meeting. Yes, please make sure the meeting minutes are posted.
    Cheryl

    Reply
  • November 6, 2018 at 3:33 pm
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    Any changes to retiree healthcare should apply to future retirees. For public employees already retired, healthcare should be left in tact. Retirees already see increases on Jan. 1 of every year. Retirees expect increases due ever rising costs in the healthcare field. It is important to leave healthcare in tact for people already retired that are pre-medicare age. As i said at the start, Any changes to retiree healthcare should apply to future retirees so they have time to plan.

    Reply
    • November 9, 2018 at 10:38 am
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      Future retirees are already contributing more of their salary toward their retirement, working longer and getting less of a benefit than current retirees.
      We know how important health care is to our retirees, but funding pensions are our first priority. If there is money left over, we can set aside those funds toward health care.
      We continue to work to maintain access to health care for current and future retirees. Over the next few months the Board will take a thorough review of the health care program, particularly at what we offer to pre-Medicare retirees. Stay up-to-date by reading your retiree newsletter, Facebook and the OPERS blog.

      Reply
  • November 17, 2018 at 7:40 am
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    When you solicit responses from the retirees please DO NOT phrase your questions to say what you want. The last survey on COLA was definitely slanted to the views that the pension board wanted to use for their defense. Anyone who has take survey 101 tells you exactly how to say the questions to obtain what you want. If it happens again trust me we will call you out, Why not be honest and open?

    Reply
    • November 19, 2018 at 1:16 pm
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      We will continue to provide as much transparency as possible as we highlight the challenges we face. And, members and retirees will have the ability to provide feedback on future actions. Keep abreast of Board activity by reading your newsletter, the PERSpective blog and other communications from OPERS. Please know your pension is secure.

      Reply

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