Updates under consideration

Board continues to review plan design changes

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Aug. 28, 2019 – The OPERS Board of Trustees is considering long-term changes to pension benefits and health care, and the trustees discussed these topics at their August meeting.

Pre-Medicare health care, the cost-of-living adjustment and the creation of a new transition group for the defined benefit plan were the main topics the Board addressed with input from OPERS staff. Here’s a roundup of what was discussed and where those discussions might be heading in the coming months.


OPERS has an unfunded actuarial accrued liability of $24 billion, an all-time high. OPERS is taking steps to reduce that liability, and one option that the trustees are considering is a two-year freeze of the cost-of-living adjustment for all retirees, after which the COLA would return to current conditions.

The proposal comes several years after passage of Senate Bill 343, which required active members to pay more for their retirement and work longer before they could retire.

In addition to freezing the COLA in 2022 and 2023, the proposal also includes delaying future COLAs to two years after retirement, instead of one, for future retirees, and restoring 85 percent purchasing power to some retirees who receive lower pensions.

The Board will consider the proposal at future meetings.

Health care

OPERS’ first obligation is to fund pensions, with health care coverage being a discretionary benefit. Because of market forces, however, we’re currently not able to contribute any money to our Health Care Fund.

Without additional contributions, the fund’s solvency is 11 years. Meanwhile, our actuaries project we can’t begin contributing to the fund for at least 15 years. Thus, it’s necessary to take steps now to preserve health care coverage for current and future retirees.

The Board has been discussing this topic since last year and in August considered five proposals to update health care coverage. The trustees centered on a package of changes that would impact all OPERS members in some way. But, importantly, it would retain access to health care for all members and retirees.

Highlights of this package include:

  • Requiring high years-of-service levels to receive an allowance for those retiring at an early age (under age 65)
  • Keeping current eligibility requirements of age 65 with 20 years of service for Medicare coverage
  • Maintaining grandfathered population eligibility but with reduced allowances
  • Reducing the base allowance for both plans
  • Eliminating the group plan for non-Medicare retirees and replacing it with an open-market model

More details will be available in coming months as the trustees near a decision. OPERS is currently conducting regional seminars on this topic. Go to the Education section on the OPERS website to sign up.

Transition Group D

OPERS members currently fall into one of three transition groups, Group A, Group B and Group C. Group A members have the most service time, with the other groups being newer to the system.

In the face of challenges to the Traditional Pension Plan and retiree health care, and to meet the changing needs of Ohio public workers, staff began discussions with the Board to create a unique tier of OPERS membership.

As proposed, those who join OPERS in 2022 and beyond would be part of Group D, a separate section of the Traditional Pension Plan that would have its own eligibility standards, benefit structures and unique features.

It would create a plan with enhanced flexibility and give members more control over their own retirement security. While discussions are preliminary, here are a few of the details being discussed:

  • Contribution rates
  • Gainsharing account
  • Retiree Medical Account:
  • COLA
  • Benefit eligibility and final average salary
  • Portability

The Board will continue discussion on the creation of Group D during the September meeting.




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 trust a COLA freeze is not being considered for Additional Annuity payments. Those of us who invested, did so with understanding that this was a legally binding contract!

    • Hi Ron, I too am interested in whether or not the COLA affects our additional annuity plans. I’ve invested in the AA plan for a long, long time, and was told by an OPERS Rep in Columbus that my AA account would earn 3% COLA. This is very likely another statement/promise that is no longer true. I am not yet retired, and depending on Mr. Pramik’s answer, I my decide to withdraw the entire amount when I do retire.

      • Nothing has been finalized. We anticipate the Board will vote on the health care changes by the end of the year with implementation Jan. 1, 2022.

        • Hi Julie,
          The question was about Additional Annuity, not health care. I believe our Additional Annuity is based on whatever COLA we receive on our pensions, correct? If so, I will withdraw my total AA funds when I do retire. And, hopefully invest it and continue to earn interest on it. COLA is certainly a hot topic and rightly so. Hopefully, OPERS comes up with something that is fair to all. The CPI based COLA is a poor solution, and then freezing a CPI based COLA for two years is shameful. Those receiving 3% will not suffer nearly as much as the folks receiving CPI based COLA.

      • When did OPERS retirement benefits not healthcare become 24 billion liability? I knew the healthcare funding was in trouble, but did not realize that monthly pension payments were in trouble as well.
        OPERS has always reported in their newsletters that pension payments were fully funded for over 30 years which is what state law requires. Now we’re finding out that pension payments are also in the red by 24 billion??? Hopefully OPERS isn’t heading down the same road as the Kentucky state pension system which is totally broke.
        Would like to hear more info on this 24 billion liability.

  • Can’t we contribute NOW to our healthcare ?
    I would be happy, HAPPY to contribute dollars from every paycheck to the insurance funds!! I feel like most folks would !

    • I agree completely. I have suggested this other times; however, apparently PERS doesn’t hear this comment or they don’t feel the members of PERS is willing to pay now to have something later. I feel many would be willing to pay now while they are working so they can have health care or atleast something in health care when they retire.

        • Yes, the moment the phrase to the effect of “we are not mandated/required to provide health care” was first announced, I knew the end was coming for health care.

          • I agree…..on a widow PERS income it’s already impossible to maintain any resemblance of our previous life style. It’s forcing a 60+ to go back to work. It’s all very distressing!!!

        • It is a shame that OPERS will eventually get out of providing pre-Medicare Healthcare benefits to its retirees. It is only a matter of time. I did not know what their actuaries were thinking and why they thought OPERS could provide healthcare benefits to retirees and their dependents at no cost into perpetuity. OPERS had a rude awakening 5-6 years ago that it was not sustainable and it had to end pre-Medicare to retirees’ dependents. Had employees in OPERS been made to contribute towards healthcare benefit while they were working, OPERS would not have run the risk of depleting healthcare funding. OPERS continues to chip away some of the benefits that once made OPERS retirees the envy of non-OPERS retirees.

          • OPERS is not immune to rising health care costs. Under the proposed changes for pre-Medicare retirees, we’re replacing group coverage with an allowance that retirees can use on the open health care market. You’ll receive an allowance to purchase health insurance or to use for other health care expenses. The allowance amount hasn’t been determined yet, but it will be based on your age and years of service at retirement.

            At this point, the Board likely won’t make any decisions regarding health care changes until early next year with the changes going into effect in 2022.

            Julie, OPERS

          • Julie,
            Will this be similar to what they just did in police & fire? I know their stipend is a sufficient amount now but with fluctuations in health care costs it is concerning. Would this apply to all “pre-medicare” current employees? Or only the new class D (hired after a certain date) that was being discussed?

          • Renee,

            The health care changes will apply to current and future retirees.

            Julie, OPERS

          • Just like everything else in life. Stick it to the hard working people that plan ahead and work hard, just for it all to be ripped away piece by piece.

      • I totally agree with you, I am retired now, (2001) BUT had I still been working, and the offer was made for me to pay into a future health plan, I would have gladly done that and I believe most others would too. Why not let this take place. This reminds me so much of the WEP Offset. We weren’t permitted to pay into Social Security while working, and then the horrific Offset the Windfall Elimination Provision which set us back b 50% of our already earned social security benefits. Now workers should be able to contribute to their own health plan. Why not do this, why the disconnect with OPERS? And why couldn’t OPERS bring bak the Social Security paymetns for the employees to eliminate the WEP offset once and for all. That would be the answer I believe. Why does it seem so difficult to allow workers to pay into their own future benefits, whether its social security or their health plan?? I just dont get it! We all are dinged 50% of our SS benefits BC of the WEP. Why isn’t this stopped and having current workers pay into social security as other companies do with their employees. It seems a vicious circle and one I completely do not understand. Another missed opportunity for the employee not to allow them to pay into their own health care plan and also SOCIAL SECURITY TO ELIMINATE THE WEP ONCE AND FOR ALL! Retirees are working into their 80’s to make up for the shortfall because they could not pay into their own social security benefits? I say why not??? Why the disconnect? To me its a win-win situation for both of us, the retired workers (or current workers) and for OPERS.. The current workers do not have the WEP offset yet, they can afford to pay into a health plan. I would have absolutely! And I would have loved yes LOVED paying into Social Security in the same manner, but I never had the opportunity to, they wouldn’t let us. But I suffered the most by losing 50% of my earned social security benefits before I worked under OPERS. To me that should not be. First it was Medicare payments – gone, thats was OK, but then health care went down to $335. Now its something else when worker contributions towards their own health care benefits could have eliminated without all this WORRY AND FEAR they keep coming up with. I wm dreading actually hearing from OPERS because its always ‘we don’t have the money now and this stops at a certain date when they could allow employees to pay into their own plans say if they work at least 10-15 years which is most of us actually. ALL this worry and fear, will I make it with 50% loss of my social security earnings GONE due to the WEP Offset and now the Health Plan subsidy is questonable. The market has been great since Trump was elected and probably will be after also up to 2024. Can’t we do things reasonably, pay up front into the system to make sure the retirees can afford health care later on when they need health care the most and don’t have the income as we did while working? Good question. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

      • I agree. I am still working and in Group C. I am planning ahead and am counting on having insurance available. I would pay to secure that option. I already set funds aside for deferred comp and a college 529 plan. Could we opt to pay for it to secure coverage rather than making it mandatory?

        • I agree
          Would rather pay more when I’m working rather than when I retire and have limited employment options.
          Also, the legislature has to approve all OPERS changes. Contact your legislators!

    • I completely agree with Kristine. I have a long way to go before I retire, but when I do, I should have a while before I am medicaid eligible. It would be so nice to know that my insurance expenses are going to be covered until then.

  • I support the COLA delay, but I recommend that OPERS not apply it to those whose benefit amount is below $1,000 per month (does not include me). They already have a tough enough time making it.

    • Those with a benefit amt under $1,000 per month may have other retirement income – they may have worked in an OPERS position for a few years and many years with other retirement options. Others worked their whole careers in an OPERS position. I’d be careful recommending a blanket rule like this.

      • If they do have another retirement, it may be affected by the Windfall. My husband will not get much of his social security, if any, because of this law.

        • I know currently the FOP is working on getting the “Windfall” repealed and if you have 20 years of substantial earnings with Social Security the “Windfall” doesn’t apply either.

          • I have 23 years of social security and was told that I would only get 55% when I retire. NOT FAIR!

          • The WEP does not apply if you have 30 years of substantial earnings with social security.

      • Perhaps they should be working in conjunction with the federal agencies to allow those of us who DID work in both retirement systems (OPERS/SS) to actually collect our SS and NOT consider that double dipping. I put that money into SS, just as I put into OPERS. I consider it stealing from me, since I can not get the money back that I put into it. This would at least offset the loss we are going to have by all the cuts that are coming to our OPERS

  • I’m concerned with taking unnecessary actions based on an arbitrary “unfunded” liability. An explanation of how that liability is calculated and how the related actions better the situation would help.

        • Want to Retire,

          The unfunded liability is the difference between the actuarial accrued liability and the funding value of assets. The former reflects the present value of the future benefit payments associated with our members’ accrued service to date. The latter represents the smoothed value of our plan’s assets. If we have an unfunded liability, that means we owe more on future benefit payments than the current smoothed value of our assets.

          –Ohio PERS

  • I very much appreciate the Board’s attention to and consideration of the health and solvency of our retirement system funds. Personally, it makes sense to me to freeze COLA adjustments for a 2 year period to reduce the unfunded accrued liability of the fund. Until the Federal government make firm decisions regarding health care coverage for US citizens, decisions regarding health care coverage under PERS is extremely difficult, even with accurate actuarial estimates. Reducing allowances, especially for the grandfathered group, seems the most equitable solution for now.

    • I would be afraid, if they freeze the COLA for 2 years, we would NEVER see it return, just like so many other temporary adjustments

      • I agree, once it is frozen you may never see it again. Kind of like when I budgeted based on what I was told we would get for retirement, then it all changed. See it happen in my personal finances, “once we get this paid off”…..but something always comes up and “once we get this paid off” is just replaced by some other calamity.

      • My wife has a public pension from New Hampshire and the governor there just signed the first COLA authorization in 10 years. Ten years!! Once OPERS gets a freeze in place good luck having them reinstate a regular COLA….

        • If you are referring to the cost-of-living adjustment, the two year freeze and returning to current conditions will be written into law.

  • What are a high numbers of years to PERS when we can retire I will have 32 years at the end of the year and still be 54 ? How many do you want us to stay to get health care.

    • I retired with 34 yrs at 52 and the healthcare cost for non Medicare retirees is ridiculous. They already stopped covering your spouse, upped amount for children and you end up the big bills

  • No one trusts OPERS anymore. We just keep giving and giving. How come no one is calling out the insurance companies that are making billions of dollars as well as the hospitals. Just rolling over…

  • What does Maintaining grandfathered population eligibility but with reduced allowances and reducing base allowance mean? Are you planning on cutting our insurance premium payment allowance?

    • When the current eligibility requirements to access coverage were put into place, age 60 and 20 years of service, all current retirees were grandfathered.

      The proposal under discussion maintains grandfathering eligibility. You would still access health care coverage even though you don’t meet the eligibility standard, but with a reduced allowance.

    • You didn’t answer my question. I hate the answers you give. You talk in circles to give the impression you are providing information, but you aren’t. Are you planning on cutting the health care reimbursement allowance? And how much? Please answer the question with actual information, not generalizations. The amount I get how doesn’t cover the premiums for me & my husband, even though I have tried to shop prudently for insurance coverage.

      • Current proposals do include a reduction in allowance amounts. However, at this point, no final decisions have been made by the Board. Decisions are expected by the end of the year for implementation in 2022.

      • Hi Julie,
        Thanks for trying to answer our questions, but when I became employed by the State of Ohio, I was told by OPERS reps and it was written in handouts given to me, that I would receive paid healthcare after 10 years of employment, that I should invest in the OPERS additional annuity plan (which I did –and OPERS changed the rules of that game a long time ago), and that I would receive a 3% COLA on my pension and my additional annuity investment. You know the old saying ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’ OPERS didn’t maintain any of those ‘promises’. The CRS tried a few of these things with their retirees, but their retirees did not let it happen. Not sure why us OPERS folks let this continue to happen each year. We really need to think about who and what represents us. OPERS and the State are creating and passing issues that cause harm to retirees and future retirees. My biggest fear is OPERS will reduce our pensions. Yes, as you say, we are guaranteed a pension, but I am not sure we are guaranteed that OPERS will not reduce or drastically cut our pensions. If OPERS investment group cannot make sound investments, then OPERS will not be able to provide health care stipends or continue making pension payments.

          • All OPERS Board members are volunteers, and do not receive compensation. Elected trustees are OPERS members subject to the same health care changes as active and retired members. Appointed trustees, if they are not public employees, do not receive an OPERS pension or access to health care.

            Julie, OPERS

        • Well, when I started with opers, my spouse was going to be on my health insurance ( which my employer has contributed to ) and I was on a 30 year and retire plan. Now all spouses are cut, they added an extra year of service before I can retire, and now they are talking healthcare cut out completely? Lots of broken promises

  • How much is estimated to be saved by freezing the cola for 2 years, how was the 24 billion short fall calculated, how many years is the pension fund projected to be solvent currently. does the state have to approve any of these changes and please explaine the return some retirees to 85 percent of their buying power?

    • Linda,

      The COLA freeze package (which includes a lower benefit for active members by having them wait 24 months for their first COLA instead of 12 months as was the case for current retirees) will reduce the unfunded liability by $3.44 billion. It requires approval by the Ohio legislature. The unfunded actuarial accrued liability is calculated with the assistance of our external actuaries. Our current funding level is 78 percent.

      And when we’re talking about the 85 percent buying power, that refers to a group of about 800 people who retired mostly during the 1970s. Their current pension benefit is below 85 percent of the benefit’s original purchasing power as measured by inflation.

      –Ohio PERS

      • I thought OPERS already restored the 70s retirees purchasing power in 2017. They have been waiting along time for their benefit to increase. OPERS was purposing to do that two years ago, might want to restore it while they are still alive. What about the employees that were caught up in the 2009-2014 time frame “0” cost of living raises and retired after 2013 which transferred us to a CPI instead of the 3% COLA. Are we the retirees who were chosen to be poor? You might say we should have kept working, some employees with 30 years of service were being forced out. Now you are freezing a potential CPI raise for us in 2022-2023. Give us a 3% COLA until we reach a $3200 gross monthly benefit, this would allow us to survive Independently. Not everyone is in a high pay range and can afford all these cuts to our benefits. All of us should get a 3% COLA it’s only ethical and fair since we are all previous state of Ohio employees. The state of Ohio is pushing a lot of us into poverty level is this continues.

        • Brenda,

          The provision you’re referring to was part of the 2017 COLA proposal, but it didn’t make it through the Ohio legislature.

          –Ohio PERS

    • The proposal currently being considered includes an adjustment to the base HRA allowance amount and changes to grandfathering provisions which could result in a reduced allowance amount.

    • The grandfathered population are those who are receiving health care coverage at the time changes are implemented. This population would not be impacted by the eligibility changes.

  • The above responses sound ‘canned’. These may not be people who will actually be adversely affected by the changes OPERS is going to implement.
    Hopefully OPERS will finally post my comments again.

    • OPERS associates are members of the fund and are affected by the changes the same way as all members and retirees.

      • I do not agree that OPERS employees are affected the same way as retirees. OPERS employees are still working and can make adjustments to their savings and retirement dates. Retirees can no longer make those adjustments when OPERS freezes the COLA or reduces the health care allowance.

        • Several years back, spouses were phased out of the insurance plan altogether after a couple of years. this forced some, myself included, to have to purchase insurance for my spouse on the market created by the ACA. This cost has risen annually, and is currently about $750.00 per month.

          When you discuss this proposal to eliminate the pre-medicare plan and go to a system where insurance would be purchased in the marketplace, I see half my pension disappearing in health care costs. Maybe the folks who dream up these things can tell us how we can afford it!

        • Everyone needs to share the burden of keeping the OPERS system solvent … and that includes current retirees. Current OPERS employees contribute a bigger percentage out of their paycheck than many current retirees did. And to get what? Smaller OPERS retirement checks in the future and no healthcare so that current retirees can have everything? I think not. We all (and that includes current retirees) need to get together and try to force changes at the Federal level. Healthcare is a disaster nationwide. Healthcare should be a right of EVERY citizen in the US and not a privilege.

  • For several years, OPERS has cut health care benefits, always explaining that health care was never a guaranteed benefit. Although the cuts were disappointing to retirees, it was true that health care was not a guaranteed benefit. However, COLA is a guaranteed benefit, and I object to OPERS cutting or reducing guaranteed benefits. Realistically, many of us realize that eventually OPERS will not be able to provide any health care because of the increasing costs of health care. Therefore, it is all the more important to strengthen the pension fund to avoid any cuts to our guaranteed pension benefits.

    • Well stated. I second this comment! Stop cutting pension benefits to prop up a withering health care benefit. Most of us who are paying in at a greater rate and for 5 to 10 additional years will never see a dime of the health care benefit. We need our pensions to pay for our health benefits ourselves.

    • Diane, Excellent post! Thank you. Yes, I agree that they will do away with our health care allowance, etc; therefore, reinstate the 3% COLA. These changes don’t stand up to good practice standards of goodwill, transparency, and being just and fair.

      • Agreed!! It’s one thing to change proposed pensions of those who are not yet retired…they can decide to get a different job, change a retirement date, etc. but if already retired you live with it.

        Grandfathered is what those of us who have retired should be!!!

        • Decide to get a different job???? What are you talking about? I’ve almost got 30 years of PERS in. Are you saying I should just keep working forever or go find a job elsewhere? We’ve got just as much to lose thank you.

    • I totally agree. OPERS always tell employees and retirees in OPERS that it is not mandated by law to provide healthcare benefit. Thus saying in so many words that healthcare benefit could end any time. However, since it is mandated by law to provide pension benefits, (which workers paid into anyway, it is not free money or something out of the benevolence of OPERS) it should pay promise 3% COLA to all and stop slowly chipping away many of the retirement benefit that once made OPERS retirees the envy of non-OPERS retirees.

  • What happens to members who retire in 2020 or 20121? Will they have to go three to four years with out a cola increase.

    • The current proposal would apply a COLA freeze for calendar years 2022 and 2023. Those who retire after 1/1/2022 would have a 24 month waiting period before receiving their first COLA.

      • Hi Julie,
        I want to thank you for answering so many of these questions. I would like to know why everyone who retired prior to 2013 still gets the 3% and those after 2013 do not. Why don’t you put everybody on the same CPI increase and that would save a lot of money would it not? I am also concerned about the healthcare increases. When I retired four years ago I was paying $110 total for medical dental and eye. Next year I will be paying over 450. My costs have quadrupled, my benefits are less, and my COLA has been reduced and now will be frozen. I am concerned as a pre-Medicare retiree, if healthcare continues to rise at this rate within 10 years my entire pension check will be paying nothing but my premiums . I am a single income household and this concerns me greatly. When I retired, I was told that the 3% was guaranteed and later found out that I was given wrong information. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have retired. Again, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

        • Jen,

          As part of pension legislation enacted in 2012, we made major changes to active members’ future pension benefits. One group that we grandfathered regarding the COLA was those who retired before Jan. 7, 2013. Those who retired after that date have their COLAs tied to the Consumer Price Index-W. We had proposed a couple of years ago to tie all COLAs to inflation, but that change was not effected.

          –Ohio PERS

        • Under the current proposal, if you retire in 2024 you will wait two years before receiving a COLA. Age and years of service do not factor into when a retiree receives the first cost-of-living adjustment.

          Julie, OPERS

  • I was not aware that OPERS has the authority to freeze COLA adjustments. I was under the impression that the current COLA regulations could not be changed without additional legislation.
    Could you please comment on this further?

      • And thank goodness for that. When you consider that all through your years of planning to retire, a big factor of consideration was the guaranteed COLA. It’s sacred, leave it alone.

    • OPERS has the authority to do anything that they so desire just by changing the legislative laws. It is we the retirees who were silly enough to actually believe that when OPERS told us that if we retired by a certain date that that we would be entitled to an annual 3% increase for life. I for one feel that I was “tricked” into retiring early so that I would be one of the guaranteed retirees to receive that annual 3% benefit. Had I not retired, (trusting that OPERS would hold true to their promises), then I would have continued to work, received increases in my wage at work thus making my OPERS benefit higher for those additional years of service when I did eventually retire. I had very adequate insurance for myself and my spouse through my employer unlike what happened when OPERS took my spouse’s insurance benefits away and I was left holding the bag on premiums of nearly $1,000.00 per month to cover our health insurance. We have had nothing but idle promises that have affected us with negative impacts. It frightens me to think of what else they intend to strip from us. Soon we will find ourselves eligible for public assistance due to all of these changes.

      • This sounds exactly like us. He retired in 2011, I pressured him to retire for the 3%. Begrudgingly he did, should have let him work longer, we would have been much further ahead.

      • My wife and I are in the same boat. The annual 3% benefit for life got my attention too, so I retired. We are currently paying over $1500 per month through OPERS for our healthcare. I budgeted for the COLA since retirement and am drowning in healthcare debt. I hope they figure this out soon.

      • My experience “mirrors” Pamela B’s. I also retired earlier than I would have due to those same “promises” regarding the 3% COLA for life. Clearly, changes to even the “promised” COLA are now being considered. Also, the meaning of the word “grandfathered” is apparently undergoing “new” definition as well. This is NOT right. Look at the phasing out of the spousal health insurance—that was a shock as well. Remember, it was “only” the spouses under 55 to be cut…. my thought process at THAT time was– OK, we’re (my spouse and I) still “good”. But then subsequently, it became ALL spouses were to be cut. So, my advice to members thinking of retiring, you would be wise to VERY CAREFULLY weigh your options before you commit, there is NO going back. Meaning, the odds of you returning to the workplace and reacquiring your “old” position are slim to none. I thought I DID weigh my options carefully, and now I wonder if I made the right choice…

  • I don’t agree that reducing allowances for the granfathered group is equitable. How is allowing the group who retired with the 3% guaranteed COLA to continue to receive it and freeze everyone else’s, who also retired with a type of a COLA agreement. I RETIRED WITH A HEALTH CARE AGREEMENT AND THAT IS NOW BEING PROPOSED TO CHANGE. I realize that the cost of insurance has increased but so have member’s premiums and coverage has declined. OPERS often states that health care is a discretionary benefit. It seems that I didn’t hear that until around 2013 when retiree’s spouses were unexpectedly dropped. Many retirees feel that insurance was a guaranteed part of their retirement. How is fair that someone can receive Medicare benefits at 65 with only 20 years of service when it appears that many retirees with 30+ years and under 65 may loose their health care and receive a stipend towards expensive open market insurance ? Maybe everyone should have to work 32 years like many of us have to receive retirement insurance?

    • Even if i work 32 years, I will only be 62. I work for local county government and i have only received 2 raises since I have been here in 5 years. I worked under PERS for 17 years somewhere else and was told I would receive healthcare benefits with 10 years of service and that changed then they said I would have to work 15 for me to be covered and 30 for my spouse, and that changed to a percentage. I make very little here as we “do not want to pass it on to the tax payer”. It is never guarenteed but I have been in the system to long to go elsewhere and make it count.

  • When I retired in 2002 I went into it with eyes wide open. I knew that health care was not guaranteed but a 3% COLA was. I didn’t realize that the COLA was not compounding, that is my own fault for not completely doing my due diligence. I rely on that COLA to make ends meet. I appreciate OPERS being transparent about upcoming proposals to our retirement system, it affords us the chance to contact parties that help with such matters. PERI is a good organization to advocate for OPERS retirees also contact your local State Representative with your concerns

  • I understand the need to freeze colas for 2 years. I just do not want us going down the same road as OP&F. My husband is in that pension system and because we live outside of Ohio, he lacks coverage. He is limited to one hospital in our area and NO coverage in any other state. We had to purchase travelers insurance to cover him while we travel in the US and abroad.
    Members deserve better after decades of service. Thanks to all board members for remembering our needs!

  • I wonder, if the cola freeze is enacted for the proposed 2 year time frame, will the cost for health insurance premiums also be froze? This past year the cola received barely covered the increase in insurance coverage cost. A 2 year period of time with no cola and increased cost of insurance will certainly hurt big time.

    • Diane, I don’t see anything that guarantees that any of the savings from the 2 year COLA freeze will go towards healthcare. I guess we are to just assume that will happen (color me a bit jaded).

  • Alan is correct. Our COLA is not compounding. Even for those of us receiving the 3%, it is not a true 3%. The percentage goes down every year and will never keep pace with inflation.

    The only way a COLA based on the CPI will keep pace with inflation is if it’s compounded.

    I worked for 30 years paying into the system while retirees received a 3% COLA. When it came time for me, the game changed. I chose to retire in 2012 to lock in my 3% COLA. My decision was final – I cannot go back and regain extra years, nor can I put extra money into a deferred comp or additional annuity plan.

    While I can live with a two year freeze, I oppose any effort to reduce the COLA that was promised and passed into law.

    • Donna. Thanks for reminding people about the non-compounding 3% COLA. The loss of purchasing power over 20-30 years is substantial: even without a 2 year freeze.

  • Grateful for the OPERS pension I have, but a question I have regarding COLAs.

    If retirees are going to have our COLAs frozen for two years, why aren’t new retirees in 2022 having their COLA’s frozen for three years? Current retirees already had no COLA increase until the start of our second year of retirement. New retirees are actually only given up one year of no COLA increase.

    • Seriously? You get 3% every year and current/future retirees only get a CPI COLA (0 to 3%), and you’re worried about them taking a cut? Is there no end to your groups greed and selfishness? Current workers are paying a lot more and working years longer in order to help maintain your benefits, and this is your concern? Shameful! The 3% COLA needs changed to the CPI; maybe then you’ll understand real sacrifice?

      • I retired in 2011 with a promise that I would get a 3% COLA for life. That was a promise that I (along with others who retired before 2013) counted on. I can’t even to describe how angry and offended I am by people who call us selfish because we expect to receive what we were promised. This 3% COLA was a guaranteed benefit, and, yes, I expect to get that guaranteed benefit. I don’t see anything selfish about that.

      • Greg, You do understand that our COLA is not compounded like Social Security, right? Therefore it really does not equate to 3% as you are claiming. In addition, we sacrifice any work that was completed in the private sector and are punished by The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and GPO. We have worked for lower wages in the public sector throughout our working years and was promised this 3% COLA that is not compounded. So really you begrudge us for fighting to maintain the COLA?

        • I won’t be getting my CPI raise in addition to my husband not getting his COLA, of course somehow we are expected to pay the nearly $200 /mo increase in our health insurance each year. So each year so make less and less. So basically it is a cut. Expected to pay more but getting less. We are losing more and more ground every year.

        • I agree wholeheartedly agree with u Mary, as I lost 3/4 of my proposed SS benefits because of the WEP. Those funds are never replaced and truthfully it’s outright robbery!

      • Becki
        My husband made the decision to retire based SOLEY on the him getting the 3% COLA, which over time adds up. He had planned on working a few more years until I could retire 4 yrs. later. About a year before I was ready to retire, they made changes to health care which greatly effected me. Over the many years we worked and planned for retirement we didn’t plan on me being on my own and us having to pay almost 1700/mo in health care. We used the COLA to cover the increase in health care each year. I am just going to quit making any financial plans ahead. Some of those who think we are “greedy” will understand when they have worked for 30+ yrs. and make decisions based on what they are told regarding their retirement income when they retire and then after they have “turned in their chips” the rules are changed on them. I would recommend not planning on anything!

      • I worked and contributed to the system 35 years, voted on 2 contract pay freezes to keep everyone working and avoiding lay-offs. I don’t feel that was selfish. Now I find out, should I decided to get back into the workforce and insurance is offered, I have no option to accept and loose my health benefits. Now between a rock and a hard place. Sure didn’t see that coming, nor can I make changes in planning for the future, thought I had it all worked out based on what was told and promised to us. So good luck in planning your future Greg.

        • Do you realize how workers on SS feel when they hear PERS retirees complaining when 35 years gets you almost 80% of your final average salary? Sure, we pay considerably more into our retirement and in reality it is both SS and a company pension plan rolled into one but we are MUCH better off than most. We can retire in our early 50’s with a great payout while those that PAY our salaries have to work to 65 or longer in most cases.

      • People now are retiring at a higher FAS and I can tell you my 3% non-compounding COLA doesn’t make up for the increases to hourly rates in the position for which I retired. In addition, the monthly premium for health care has basically quadrupled in the last 7 to 8 years.

        The 10% deduction rate for PERS has not increased during this time so you can’t say current workers are “paying alot more” as that has not changed for years!

        • At the risk of being despised, please allow me to address your responses. First, nobody is happy about any cuts to any group. The failure of the OPERS Board to be proactive over the past decades is deplorable. Whether we’re retired or still working, many of us worked the vast majority of our careers for the same “guaranteed” benefit that you were promised. But the current retirees need to understand the level of cuts/sacrifice bore by current contributors/recent retirees during the 2012 OPERS reform, and since we also inherit any and all cuts the retirees received (and often at a greater %), these are all above and beyond any cuts you’ve endured.

          As for the COLA, we also get a % of FAS that does not compound. Recent/future retirees get a CPI-based COLA up to 3%. For the current year, that is 1.4%, while you get 3% (note that 1.4% has been about the average of the CPI over the last 10 yrs – that’s a 16% difference in only 10 yrs). Within the last decade, current contributors (working for OH) received 0% raises (actually 2 yrs were cuts) for 6 consecutive yrs. During this time, you continued to receive 3% COLAs every year (despite negative or minimal inflation). When contributions are stagnant, while pension payouts and health benefits continue to increase, the OPERS funds are quickly depleted; thus the problem we are in.

          As for larger current salaries, they are higher, but so are costs (called inflation), and with 0% raises for 6 yrs, our FAS averages were permanently suppressed (along with our eventual pensions).

          As for contributing @ 10% vs. your 8.5%, for a new employee hired @ $40k/yr, with no steps or promotions ever, just an annual 3% raise, they will pay an extra $36k over 35 yrs (they’ll work at least that long). If they were to invest this into deferred comp, assuming a meager annual return of 5%, after 30 yrs, they would have about $83k. That (or more) is what it actually costs each person.

          As to SL Bowers’ inquiry about whether future retirees should be frozen for 3 yrs rather than 2, she fails 1) to recognize the other significant cuts we’ve already taken, or 2) to understand that our freeze would be immediate at the beginning of our retirement and therefore would affect us for all of our retirement years, rather than a freeze in the middle or towards the end of your retirement years which has less affect due to the likely smaller period of time. As a result, a 1 yr freeze, even @ 1.4%, could be larger than your 2 yr freeze, if that makes you feel better…

          I also disagree with the comment that retirees can least afford cuts. Many of you have families and surely can remember how expensive kids can be, not to mention making the house payments, car payments, college savings, etc. When to retire is a personal decision for all, but it is prudent to have significant savings and/or deferred comp funds in reserve because life changes; revenues decrease and unexpected expenses happen. The point is, we can’t hold others responsible to supplement our decisions. Nobody begrudges older retirees for fighting for your benefits; the problem arises when your solutions are to continue to push the cuts and sacrifice down to future retirees, which really equates to fighting for the redistribution of benefits/wealth. You all have been extremely blessed, and you need to show more consideration for others who’ve sacrificed so much more.

  • I certainly want our PERS pension plan to be strong but with regard to the COLA freeze proposal I’d be interested to see a comparison of savings of the 2-year freeze versus having everyone move to a CPI-based COLA. Does a common CPI-based COLA for all save more over time, and is there a chance with more vocal support to the Ohio House that HB 413, which would allow such a change, could be approved? I’m just wondering if that’s a better long-term financial fix to our pension system and less disruptive to us all than what is likely a series of periodic COLA freezes over time.
    Can OPERS please provide such a comparison so we can participate in the discussion before a decision is made?


    • Here are some comparisons that you may find helpful:
      • CPI based COLA capped at 2.0% provides $4.47 billion
      • CPI based COLA capped at 2.5% provides $3.02 billion
      • 2 year freeze provides $3.44 billion
      • 3 year freeze provides $4.18 billion

      • We certainly don’t want option 1 & 2 which are CPI based COLAs with a 2 – 2.5% cap.

        Our COLA is not compounded. Which means we would never receive a true 2 – 2.5% COLA and would never keep up with inflation.

        I could live with a 2 year COLA freeze if OPERS would promise (and keep their promise) to restore our COLA to their current levels.

      • Julie, it looks like OPERS will save more by granting a 2% COLA each year to retirees. Hey, I would vote for a 2% COLA each year. CherylH

      • I retired in 2002. I received a 3% cola for 1 year since it was non-compounding. Currently my cola is approximately 2% of my monthly benefit and it will keep decreasing since it is non-compounding. A consideration that OPERS might want to look into is having a CPI based cola based on a members current annual benefit every year which to me would be a lot easier to accept than the proposal put forth in H.B 413 that the CPI based cola would be on your annual benefit at retirement or a 2 year freeze.

      • Thank you Julie I appreciate the response. It looks like what was likely shared when the CPI-based COLA proposal was considered a couple years ago. Can you please include over what timeframe the $3.02 billion of savings is incurred for the CPI based COLA capped at 2.5%? Would it be possible to calculate those savings over 10-years if CPI averages as predicted approximately 2%/year?

        My concern is that PERS will be forced to implement periodic COLA freezes to keep the unfunded liability at a reasonable level. This 2-year freeze proposal costs pre-2013 retirees 6% and the rest of us likely about 4% assuming inflation (CPI) runs around 2%/year. Is it possible we’re all better off — our PERS pension funding level/management and the pre-2013 retirees over time if PERS, with our help was able to push through House Bill 413 to put us all on the CPI based COLA capped at 2.5%?


      • Thank you for this information. I agree with Scott. Why don’t we have a CPI capped COLA of say 2.5% for EVERYONE and start with that huge savings? I think so many people would be happier with this solution.

    • If I have my guaranteed 3% COLA that I was promised when I retired changed to the CPI based COLA just because those who retired after 2013 are suddenly upset about the changes they have known were coming for years then I want the ability to undo my retirement and start earning an additional 2.5% per year towards my final average salary. I played by the rules I was given. Stop trying to take away something from others just because you don’t like it. I didn’t like it either. I retired earlier than I wanted to. Don’t think I didn’t give up anything. I gave up several more years of higher earnings which would have increased my FAS. It’s not like my 3% increase has made me rich but it was promised to me, in writing, guaranteed.

      • Retiree – No only was our 3% COLA promised and guaranteed in writing, it was passed into law.

        Sweeping changes were made in 2012. If OPERS is running out of money already, maybe they should examine their investment strategy and not try to take from retirees already scraping by.

          • After working for more than 45 years, I would like to have a few years to enjoy life and spend time with family like I didn’t get to do when I was working.

        • Yeah?

          I guess you would like me to go be a greeter somewhere? flip burgers? cut grass? Get my 72-year old bod outta bed every morning singing Zippedy-do-da or Hi-ho-hi-ho-off-to-work-I-go? All this so I can merrily afford the health care cuts you want me to embrace? For you? Do this all for the joy of helping those who want me to keep giving and giving stuff up until I wind up with next to nothing and only maybe a decade or so left to live? Make more and more sacrifices. And then more and more and more sacrifices? No thanky! I already put in my time. I am losing 2/3 of my SS check, will now face cuts to my health care allowance so trust me — I am going to fight for every stinking penny OPERS wants to take from me and give up.

          Maybe you can get a second job as a greeter somewhere. Flip burgers. Mow lawns on Saturdays and Sundays. You’re younger than me and more able.

          I have sacrificed enough of my health care. Fought to keep my COLA.

          How empowering to slog it out arm-wrestling on an electronic BLOG!!!!

          • Easy there ja – My reference to “Nothing stopping you from rejoining the workforce” was directed to all those indicated they retired only to get the 3%, if they knew it could possibly change they would have kept working. So yes those individuals can easily rejoin the workforce. Nothing you currently do will benefit me – but I will have to work additional years to be eligible to retire and my COLA will be CPI based, this is for the benefit of you so you can enjoy a 3% COLA. You are welcome.

  • I don’t understand why OPERS reduced the expected rate of return from 7.5% to 7.2 percent for OPERS pension fund and from 6.5% to 6 percent for its health care fund. This made the unfunded liability look terrible, but OPERS could have responsibly made other decisions that would have not made the unfunded liability look terrible.

    The Dayton Daily News, 10/17/18 said the other Ohio retirement systems expect:
    7.45 percent for STRS, 7.5 percent for SERS, 7.75 percent of Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System, and 8.0 percent for OP&F. Why is OPERS expecting less? The economy seems to be doing much better than 7.2% in 2019 (I know it did not do well in Dec 2018).

    Of course I want OPERS to plan carefully and make hard decisions if necessary. Historically OPERS has done much better than many other state retirement systems. But I don’t want OPERS to make decisions based on pessimistic projections unnecessarily.

    • John,

      Here’s a blog we wrote about a year ago that explains why we lowered our assumed investment rate of return. We don’t base this rate on how the markets are doing “now.” We have to base it on expected returns over the short, medium and long term.

      We’re now at 7.2 percent. In February, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators said the average return assumption of 129 plans it surveyed was 7.27 percent.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I see a lot of reducing the HRA from $450 to $350 in these packages. Since it appears that no one can achieve more than 90% why isn’t this being referred to as $315 ? Sounds a little misleading.

    • Allowances range from 51% to 90% depending on years of service at retirement and age when you access health care.

  • Can you give us an idea about when all of these changes might become effective?? To Retirees and Soon to be Retirees: We all need to write to our public officials to make certain they are aware of what the OPERS retirees and future retirees are sacrificing, and make certain they are know how unhappy we are about the changes and cuts OPERS has been devising for the past several years (some are so unjust that I can’t believe we all let it happen!). Could a good deal of it be because our OPERS Board of Trustees (who we vote for) selected an investment group which, apparently, isn’t very good at investing. The State should consider that they will need to support us one way or another – either via a viable pension or via Medicaid (because we won’t receive a pension/health care/COLA in order to survive).

  • Leave my COLA alone. Pension rights are vested. Insurance is not guaranteed; if OPERs doesn’t have and can’t increase funding honestly, let it go. Give us what we earned in pension benefits and COLA. A 2 year freeze of COLA will reduce our pensions every year of our lives

    • Right on Scott. Our COLAs are vested benefits. For those who retired prior to 2013 they were mandated at 3% annually. OPERS cannot legally retroactively divest contractually mandated benefits. A two year freeze takes away a vested benefit.

      • I agree. Leave the
        COLA alone. Don’t diminish a guaranteed obligation to finance optional support. Retirees could end up with neither the COLA nor the medical insurance support.

        • I agree with John. Leave COLA alone and restore 3% for everybody. Health care is not a guaranteed benefit and we could give up some of our COLA and still be left with nothing . It is indeed a slippery slope if we allow that precedent to gain traction. I would much rather see a reduction in health care benefits, since we are probably going to eventually lose that anyway.

      • Hi Susan and J, I’m all for a COLA of 3% for all. It’s certainly just and fair. Not unfair like the current situation of some getting 3% and some getting whatever the CPI is for any given year. Let OPERS work on giving everyone 3%! Or, let them work on giving everyone a CPI based COLA.

        • What is not just and fair. Those of who retired before 2013 were guaranteed a 3% COLA. Those who retired after that were promised a CPI-based COLA. Retirees should get what they were promised when they retired. It would not be fair to change the 3% COLA for those of us who were guaranteed that benefit when we retired. Of course, I would not object if OPERS wanted to raise the COLA to 3% for people who retired after 2013. But I certainly object to OPERS taking away the 3% COLA that was promised to me (and others) as a guaranteed benefit when we retired.

          • Or at least quit raising the cost of health care which goes up significantly each year. Hard when health care goes up a couple hundred each year but there is no way to pay for it. You can only reduce how much you eat by so much. a couple hundred out of the food budget each month over a 2 yr. period is a lot. You just don’t have the disposable income you had when you were working.

  • I oppose any freeze or cut on COLA, the only reason I retired in 2011 was to preserve my promised 3% COLA when I retired.

  • Some of people had to retire earlier than planned, due to family circumstances, resulting in a reduced pension. If someone retired in 2008 at age 60 with 25 years of service, his health care allowance was calculated at 61% of the base. Because he retired earlier than 2018, he is “grandfathered.” If the base allowance is reduced from $450 to $350, how is will his health care allowance be affected? Will it still be calculated at 61%?

    • The details are still being worked out, and nothing has been finalized. We anticipate the Board will vote on the health care changes by the end of the year with implementation Jan. 1, 2022.


  • I entered retirement in 2013 under OPERS LE. At the time, I was told my percentage for healthcare would gradually increase over the first three years to 25% and then 25% would be my max. Is that subject to change?

    • The details are still being worked out, and nothing has been finalized. We anticipate the Board will vote on the health care changes by the end of the year with implementation Jan. 1, 2022.

      • By the end of the year? We need to know before December 7 if out health insurance reimbursement will be cut & how much. We may need to find a plan with a cheaper premium because we can’t afford the one we currently have because OPERS cut the reimbursement amount.

  • I am very concerned about the healthcare eligibility and grandfathering discussions.

    I worked for the state for 28 years, retired with a two year ERI on January 31, 2002 and have no other access to health care other than through the connector and what OPERS provides to cover Medicare Part A and my health savings account.

    When I took the ERI nobody from my agency or OPERS told me that the two year ERI would not count toward health care eligibility. That would only give me 28 years, not 30.

    Changing the game rules for long time retirees like me is unfair and would create a severe financial burden.

  • I absolutely agree with keeping the 3% COLA. I retired in 2018, and had to do so without any health care benefits because of the rule of 60 years of age or 30 years of employment. I had to go with a private health care provider. I’m divorced, so a portion of my retirement benefits go to my ex-wife. So I have to scrimp and save every penny to get by. That 3%COLA helps me greatly. I understand that my divorce is not the problem of anyone here, but every little bit helps. I worked 29+ years for the state. I need that 3% to help offset the cost of the private health insurance.

  • When I was working I was told that you could retire at age 55 with 25 years of service. Your pension would be less but you still would have health care. I retired with 28 years of service I. 2012 for the guaranteed 3%COLA. Not only are they going back on that promise but they want to take away my health care because I am under the age of 65. All the rules are changing. Less means much more money needed for health care!

  • I retired in 2011 based on promise I’d have 3 percent COLA. My finances and budget were based on this. For the REST of my life! I’m thinking I’m really messed up if I’m unfortunate enough to live too long. I think loss of health care is a forgone conclusion but I’ll fight to the death for my COLA.

  • For all the OPERS retirees who retired believing there was a 3% COLA that was compounded yearly, shame on you for not becoming better educated. A COLA increase based on CPI similar to social security system would be the fairest to all based on a decreasing value of the “guaranteed 3% COLA” which will become 1 to 1.5% in next 10 years. Next, the retiree HRA allowance should be a locked amount for two reasons; 1) The purchasing power will only decrease over years similar to the 3% COLA not compounding. 2) Retirees believed 25+ years ago that health-care would be available to a spouse. Due to supposedly enormous increases in health-care (most financial organizations recognize a 3%, not 5-7% increase), OPERS removed spouses from any benefit in 2017, saving dollars. And when a retiree hits 65, Medicare becomes primary lightening the health care premium paid for anyone who retires prior to 65.

  • I would like to know when I retired 10 years ago I took the plan where my husband would have medical insurance if I left a percent of my pension to him. I did do that which he did not want me to do. Now that is not true no insurance but he will still get the percentage every month if I should pass away before him. I called and ask and went to seminars to see if I could change my plan and I was told I couldn’t unless he passed away or I got divorce. Why can’t I change that now?

  • Stating the amount of the unfunded liability by itself is meaningless. OPERS tries to raise concerns by declaring the $24 billion unfunded pension liability is at an all-time high. Well guess what — total pension assets are also at an all-time high. According to the OPERS CAFR, the pension funded ratio (assets/accrued pension liability) is 78%. That is almost certainly the highest of all the Ohio public retirement systems and among the highest of public pension plans around the country.

  • Julie, while I cannot afford to receive less, OPERS has a $24 billion liability and the CPI based COLA @ 2% provides the highest return to recoup this loss. Additionally, I would like to continue to receive reasonably-priced health insurance offered by OPERS.

  • What about the windfall law that takes away your social security and PERS depending on which is higher at the time of retirement. I thought this would be addressed as well.

    • GPO and WEP are federal laws implemented by the Social Security Administration. Your OPERS pension is not impacted.

  • I feel there are no guarantees period.

    Every time I get a COLA increase co-pays and deductibles increase. My health care costs are terrible as I have a chronic condition. I feel like people on welfare are faring better than me and I retired after working 30 years. I live from pay check to paycheck and usually have to dip into savings at the end of the month. I am grateful for what I have. Most are struggling. I hope you reconsider adding anymore burdens to those of us who have retired and no longer are able to work.

  • My husband and I are so thankful for our OPERS benefit. This system is one of the best in the country.
    It has been prudent to make incremental changes to make sure the fund will be there for people still working. Those currently working will have to work much longer and have fewer benefits than current retirees. I am happy to make small incremental changes so that the current people working in the system will have benefits in the future.
    For example: Because no incremental changes were made to save the teamsters fund,Central States pensions will be completely out of money in 10 years. Retirees will get nothing.
    Thanks to the Board for watching out for the solvency of the fund.

    • Thank you, Elaine. I feel the same way. OPERS is a far better system than many other pension systems whether private, public, state, or federal. I am grateful for my pension and believe that those still working are entitled to a safe, secure pension. Please contact OPERS with your concerns (and we all have them), but also think about the future of OPERS not only for current retirees, but those coming up. I have enjoyed the HRA, but always understood that it might go away.

    • Elaine,

      Very well said. OPERS is defiantly trying to address the hard issues coming at them. I know many Fire Fighters and Police that have totally lost all insurance. We are lucky to still have a defined benefit guaranteed to death, and able to chose that our spouse receives benefits after we die. I think freezing COLA sucks, but it would only be for two years. It’s like when I got hired that I thought I would only have to work 30 years and out. Now I have to work 32 years to get to unreduced benefits. I am OK with this because the old timers always taught us to protect the retirement because someday we will be one of them needing the younger ones to help us out.

    • Thank you. As a member who is still working, everyone needs to understand that pensions are basically pyramid schemes. Those at the bottom pay those at the top. Problem is that there aren’t enough of us at the bottom paying in any more. Each one of us pays for 2-3 retirees. This is not sustainable. Not judging, just doing the math.

    • Yes, I am very much in agreement with your philosophically and fiscally comment, Elaine.

      Thanks to the board for doing their best to preserve our OPERS!


  • A pre-tax medical savings account that we could direct some of our pension to would help us get out in front of this before it becomes a bigger problem.

    As you plan for your retirement your financial advisers give you advice, of course they are still working and can make personal adjustments until the time they leave work. We believe we were careful as employees, tried to plan for the future, and hoped to retire with all the benefits outlined in the sales brochures. Now that reality has hit, we are no longer able to make adjustments in savings and rely upon a plan that is becoming more and more obsolete and inadequate. We are forced to try to navigate a healthcare system so confusing I spend hours on the phone waiting for assistance only to find the people on the other end of the line may not understand or may have no solutions. Retirement has become a frightening, daily struggle. As we struggle with ways to balance our budgets and you do the same for the Retirement System, efforts should be made by OPERS to provide some mental health counselling, any possible assistance in finding meaningful additional income and a solid lobbying effort with the Governments we worked so hard to service.

  • Retired in 2011 with 31 years, with the contract of the 3% cola. I could have worked longer, but wanted the guaranteed 3% cola. A contract is a contract. Don’t mess with my non compounding cola. I lose purchasing power every year as it is. No freeze either.

    • I agree with Pat C., a contract is a contract upon retirement. OPERS states plan for your retirement, place money into a savings mechanism, plan for the future. Only problem is that OPERS decides to change the rules of the game after you diligently plan and attempt to forecast your retirement. Poor planning by anyone should not affect the plans of others who took time and effort to do the RIGHT thing.

  • I retired 3 years ago and no longer utilize OPERS health care because I am covered through my husband’s plan when we married last year.

    I have been reading the updates, newsletters and discussions and I am concerned that the OPERS board is putting too much emphasis on supplying members with health care through OPERS.

    OPERS is not required to offer health insurance to members. They are our pension fund. Therefore, the hostility and negative comments aimed at the OPERS board is unnecessary and not fair. They are not the reason health care coverage is costly. They are not to blame.

    I appreciate their efforts and hope the priority remains keeping our PENSION dollars well invested secure.

    Thank you.

    • Mari Cornish, Not fair? I’m glad you’re covered under your husband’s plan for healthcare, but many of us do not have that luxury/alternative and are still in need of healthcare through OPERS. We are paying enormous premiums for them to provide us with healthcare and every year it is increasing exponentially. Those of us not Medicare eligible are squirming to figure out what to do once OPERS decides to cut us off. We are basically at their mercy. So please don’t reply that we are hostile and bitter about our predicament. Again, I’m glad you don’t have this problem.

  • Please consider and project for the future. By reading the times now. Before reducing and taking more away for workers and retirees. If I knew what I know now. I may have stayed with the construction industry. There were many I thought written in the contract that would change, but did. If you keep taking away and not competing with other companies outside of the Gov’t. You may have fewer people wanting to be employed and contribute to these plans.
    If not mistaken the economy is on a great boom and it looks like it will be steadily growing in the future.
    Thank you. Bear with my basic English skills, please.

  • It seems OPERS is interested in keeping the 3% COLA for those who retired prior to 1/2013 because many retirees based when to retire on this promise. What about the maximum amount employees would pay towards health care? I retired prior to November 2014, based on that promise (years of service and age). Obviously, many retired based on different promises made. Now the preMedicare people are going to be off OPERS insurance effective 1/2022. At the very least everyone should be in the same boat and receiving the same cost of living.

  • This whole thing is a nightmare not on for retirees but for those who planned to retire with in the next couple of years. We have absolutely no idea what to do after almost 40 years of service and under 65. Those of us who missed
    Group A by a couple of months are left in the dark with no idea what to do. Good luck keeping public service workers, will be no incentive anymore.

  • A part of the reduced income to OPERS is the use of temporary contract workers. Instead of allowing this to continue, the contractors should be required to contribute money to OPERS for the privilege of taking jobs from state employees. I worked in IT and the use of contractors was rampant. Some worked so long for the state they could have had longevity pay. I realize there are legitimate uses for contractors, I used them myself on a project BUT the goal was for them to mentor my state employees in learning new technology and they were gone as soon as the project was done. Now, a lot of the big computer systems have been taken over by contracting firms and that is a lot of money draining from our retirement benefits. I kept the state job for over 30 years because of the retirement benefits when I could have gone off and earned a higher income but without the benefits.

  • I was fortunate enough to retire at a relatively young 55 with 30 years service. I fully comprehend and support effort to maintain solvency of OPERS. But please consider this. I retired in 2009 and my wife is 9 years younger than me. Since retirement, my health care benefits have resulted in about a $1200 a month swing in our health care benefits to my detriment. Our COLA is based on your original retirement benefits our “3% COLA” reduces in value annually. Actuary tables show that I have about a 50% chance of living another 30 years. COLA will be close to nil at that time. Public service was a choice but I always thought there was a considerable guarantee of solvency. Please solve this so I don’t have to work at minimum wage until I die.

  • My wife and I are in the same boat. The annual 3% benefit for life got my attention too, so I retired. We are currently paying over $1500 per month through OPERS for our healthcare. I budgeted for the COLA since retirement and am drowning in healthcare debt. I hope they figure this out soon.

  • After reading all the blogs. I can see why OPERS continues to only minimally affect those who retired before 2013. Your group complains to much while having no real skin in the game! Lets see, your group spiked, worked less years, 3% cola and grandfathered benefits. The changes and sacrifices the post 2013 retirees had to and continue (1.4% COLA) accept was by law not choice! It’s about time the retirees before the pension changes help with OPERS funding problems because we are all in this together.

  • When did the 24 billion in liabilities for pension benefits, not healthcare occur? PERS has always reported that pension benefits were fully funded for 30 yrs as I believe state law requires.
    I feel the COLA should not be modified. Retirees will need a COLA to try to offset all the additional healthcare costs now and in the future.
    The writing is in the wall, health care benefits are being phased out, little by little each year. OPERS has no obligation to provide us healthcare benefits. I appreciate PERS efforts in doing so, but with healthcare and RX costs continuing to rise each year, I don’t see how PERS can continue to offer a healthcare benefit.
    My position is to leave our COLA alone and shore up the monthly benefits. I don’t see how PERS can save the healthcare benefit in future years. At least leave our COLA alone and keep our monthly retirement annuities in a stronger position by reducing the massive healthcare liabilities that PERS faces each year.

  • I am a veteran who began working at 12 and worked until I was 72. I retired in 2019 with a OPERS pension and a small HRA monthly allocation. I thank God and this country for what I have now and pray that the OPERS Board strongly considers how difficult it is for existing retirees to accept any adjustments to their income and health care related cost. Freezes, reductions, increased taxes and inflation have a profound affect on all of us who are retired. Most of us could not get back into the workforce even if we wanted. For those of you who are still working – you have the opportunity to increase your annual income and savings. I believe any changes made should be focused on future retirees, not existing retirees. Furthermore OPERS needs to stand by their promises and legal obligations.

  • Folks, Do you honestly think that OPERS will not consider reducing our pensions in the years to come (along with reducing COLA and health care)? The general population does not feel sorry for those of us who have a defined pension. OPERS knows that the public won’t fight for us, and we won’t fight for ourselves by writing to our representatives; therefore, OPERS can pretty much do as they desire. And now, they have us arguing among ourselves about their unfair COLA tactics. As someone else said, OPERS is a business, and they have ceased to care about us. I wish I were entitled to a 3% COLA.

  • I notice the majority of comments have one group against another rather than coming up with a solution to benefit all groups. Based on your calculation of a two year elimination of the COLA current retirees will have had a total of 3 years (1 at retirement and 2 additional) where as a 2023 and after retirees would only have a 2 year waiting period.

    Also, since OPERS is looking to go back to the legislators with a change to the COLA to save 2-4 billion dollars, they should also look at increasing the employer share to let say 16%. Based on the 2018 CAFR, would supply $3.6 Billion over 10 years or $10.8 Billion over the next 30 years. This eliminates half of the of unfunded Liability.

  • Did PERS get proposals from providers other than Medical Mutual? It seems the public entities are getting much better rates than PERS. At 71%, the increase in premium was 25.7% in 2019 and 21.3% in 2020. The premium reduction is being eliminated plus deductibles and copays are increasing. The out of pocket deductible is increasing from $1200 to $2500. Is this correct?

    • David,

      You should be receiving 2020 open enrollment information by mid-October. That package will contain specific information for next year, including deductible amounts.

      –Ohio PERS

  • First OPERS changed the defined benefit of spousal insurance payment. I have a friend who retired and received less in her pension because she wanted to have paid insurance for her spouse. That went away. Now OPERS is reneging on a COLA benefit that is in law. What is next? I agree with the retirees who stated above that they made plans based on promises made that OPERS is planning not to keep. I would not want to be the people giving the bad news of OPERS changes in the seminars. They will receive the scorn of the retirees directly. I plan to tell my legislators not to make changes to the law. We all should let them know that retirees are not in agreement with OPERS on this.

  • As far as the health Care issue is concerned; I feel that OPERS should get out of the Health Care “Provider” business. The 12 billion that is in the health care fund should only be used to pay retirees’ “allowances” every month into an HRA. We could then use that allowance to help reimburse us for buying insurance in the Market Place. Just that action alone will prolong the health care fund for many more years beyond what is now projected.

  • i know things are bad and funding decreasing i’m already struggling to make it but you
    have to do what is necassary to keep funding going for everyone jujst have to keep going
    with what we get i ‘m not fortunate to be able to invest in anything

  • It’s all just math. Everyone needs to remember that there are no guarantees. There are legislated benefits, but those too can be changed at any time with legislative changes. COLA’s are an extremely expensive benefit and compounding only makes them more penalizing to the health of the system. Be grateful that you actually have a defined benefit pension. I know that it could always be better, but it also could be worse. I worked in the investment department at OPERS in the 1980’s and 1990’s and I’m proud of what the system has been able to provide to its members. My benefits, like many of the members, have been reduced and changed from what I was told or “guaranteed”, but they are still pretty attractive. I wish that they were more lucrative, but for the greater good, I’ll accept whatever makes the most sense to ensure the long term success of all members.

  • 3% per year COLA is a joke. When I retired 16 yrs. ago, my 3% is now 1.8%
    My husband, OPERS retiree also, his 3% is now 2.2%. Both of those percentages will continue to decrease each year because they are not compounded. So let’s quit saying guaranteed 3%.
    You need to look at your investment policy..if you can’t make a decent return in this climate, you never will be able to. Who is doing your calculating? Numbers can show anything you want it to.
    When you unfreeze the 2 yr. COLA, what version are you going to use…I think it should be a true compounded 3%. Also, when you talk about cutting health care reimbursements, when is it going to stop? You made changes to the new pensioners that was supposed to take care of most of this.

  • I don’t understand why the state maintains a pension fund if the people in it can’t afford retirement due to the constant takeaways. It’s ludicrous! Promises were made to the currently retired and should be kept. Changes should apply to those who have not yet retired.

  • I know that the fixed 3% COLA is not compounded, is that also true for the CPI COLA? It seems that the CPI COLA may be the better deal if it is compounded.

  • Why does all this have to be paid for on the backs of retirees? Why not increase rates for government contributions and new people coming into the system to fully fund the COLA and to fully fund health care for retirees and dependents.

  • Everyone in this country is subject to uncertainty of keeping their health insurance, whether they are employed or retired. This especially affects those not yet eligible for Medicare. Workers who are happy with their current insurance from their employer and oppose proposals to reforms in Congress should realize that continuation of their coverage is tenuous at best. Health Insurance should be decoupled from employment and medical care should be available to all of our people.

  • OPERS has not chaned the employee rate in many years. At one time it was 8.5% and it was gradually moved to 10%. Increase what the employee is paying!!! Ohio Police and Fire Pension did it, raising their employee contribution from 10% to 12.5% over five years. Why does the OPERS board refuse to consider this option? I believe most employees would be willing to pay more rather than have OPERS cause them significant financial distress in their retirement.
    The increase could be applied to the pension liability and a portion designated for healthcare.

  • What public pension plan has not had to make changes to its “promised benefits” that affect not only current retirees but future retirees? I do not like giving up my COLA or health care benefits, however,I know I could not make it without my pension.

  • I retired at the age of 67 with PERS retirement supported in 2017 after 30 years of service, now concerned that the amount of my pension (most important), COLA and non-Medicare supported health care are at risk. If there is an educational session and/or person-to-person counsel to discuss this, I would welcome the assistance. Thank you.

    • We encourage you to attend the recently revised Open Enrollment and Pension/ Health Care Update seminar, available now through December. It includes information on 2020 open enrollment and the Board of Trustee’s review of the OPERS health care program. Visit the Member Education Center at opers.org to find dates and locations.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I’m curious if OPERS has thought about allowing social security contributions like many other State PERS plans do, and what the negatives would be besides one being additional $$ out of net pay and additional obligations of 6.2% to employers as well. There are many positives to allowing this for employees.

      • I get it that OPERS is not doing this, but I was curious what the thought process is for not allowing social security, and if there had been past discussions about it. When OPERS was more generous with the paid benefits back years ago maybe it didn’t make as much sense, but with some of the more recent cutbacks, maybe the discussion should be open again. Some State PERS plans allow the option with the public entity to decide if they want to allow Social Security in addition to PERS.

        • OPERS predates Social Security and still provides a meaningful retirement plan for its members and retirees.

    • That would be terrible. For one, taking money away from PERS and for another, social security is not for full retirement. It was meant as a supplement to your employers retirement package. The SS recipients I know receive a grand or less per month.

  • Hi,

    I’ve only been retired for a few months and appreciate changes are necessary and PERS will try to minimize the negative impacts. For my long term budgeting, I do ask for as much stability in the decisions as possible and for PERS to continue to keep retirees as informed as possible about potential changes. Since I never paid into Medicare, future health care costs are a major concern for me.

    I’m curious about the proposal to restore “…85 percent purchasing power to some retirees who receive lower pensions.” and would like more information about this potential change.

    While these beneficiaries retired subject to a non-compounding 3% COLA and maybe should have planned for that, I appreciate that a portion of these retirees were affected by the loss of health care benefits for their spouse (and maybe other changes I’m not aware of) and I would like to support efforts that would help off-set that for those who were subject to benefit reductions. (And yes, the PERS health care benefits were never required by law but I can understand a lot of beneficiaries assumed the benefit would always be there.)

    What is the overall rationale for “…restoring 85 percent purchasing power to some retirees who receive lower pensions.”? I like the idea of helping any beneficiary but when it accompanies benefit reductions for others who will likely see the same purchasing power reductions in the future, I need more information before I can be supportive.

    Thank you,

    • Jim,

      This provision applies to about 800 retirees who retired mostly during the 1970s when inflation was high. In order to return 85 percent purchasing power, as measured by inflation, to them we’ll increase their pensions a bit.

      –Ohio PERS

  • How has recent recovery in the stock market been considered as we are back to all time highs from lows at 12/312018? It seems that the gains are being ignored and the conversation is based on 12/31/2018 results.

  • As an OPERS retiree, I recognize the huge responsibility the OPERS Board has in managing the funds provided by OPERS employees and employers. State and local governments seem to continue to decrease funding for personnel costs (salary, wages, and fringe benefits) as budgets tighten which affects retirement funding flowing to OPERS.

    After working 33 1/2 years for local government, I receive an OPERS pension and – currently at least – health insurance cost assistance and am grateful for the benefits I earned. Importantly, I’ve also worked in positions requiring contribution to Medicare and Social Security systems but am not eligible for free Medicare Part A (or Social Security).

    In 2016, when my health insurance was no longer available under OPERS’s insurance plan, I used the One Exchange connector to buy marketplace health insurance. It was then that I was made aware that changing from OPERS’s insurance to another coverage required me to enroll in and pay Part A’s monthly premium plus a 10% penalty. That cost is currently over $460 monthly. Thankfully, OPERS has paid that cost for OPERS retirees who aren’t eligible for free Medicare Part A.

    My OPERS pension is a significant portion of my retirement income. OPERS’s health insurance assistance – HRA subsidy and Part A payment – is important to me, also. To the OPERS board, please carefully consider all aspects of any changes you may feel are necessary to our pension and health insurance funding.

  • The cost of health insurance and care are not sustainable in the U.S. Most other industrialized countries provide universal health coverage at about half the amount spent per capita in the U.S. I urge OPERS members to consider supporting national and state legislation that would provide universal and comprehensive health insurance (also known as “Medicare for all). For more information , google the Single Payer Action Network of Ohio.

  • I have paid into PERSLE for 25 years and continue to pay in. My contributions should be paying for those that are retired and retirees should not be reduced or frozen. If you don’t have enough for the retirees, raise my contributions along with millennials and Gen Z. When I retire I would expect the same from future generations.

  • Correct me if I am wrong but the 3% COLA was not taken away as they had recommended. Our legislators did not pass that bill. I too retired with the guaranteed 3% COLA and healthcare benefits for myself and my spouse. When they took the healthcare benefits away, I went back to work to cover my spouse because they did not offer healthcare where he worked. He is now 65 and able to get Medicare. I am planning on retiring again at the end of the year. I do feel we deserve what we were promised. I do also think that those still working really need to look at saving some money for their retirement in addition to what they will get for a pension. I got into the deferred compensation programs offered and I now have the money to enjoy life as I believe we all want to do in our retirement. I never got crazy with the stock market and stuck to the guaranteed funds. A bird in hand sometimes is worth two in the bush. I may have more comments about the healthcare next month after I research what my options are now.

    • All workers should consider saving money from retirement regardless of the pension plan they work under as they were never intended to generate enough income by themselves. We certainly have it better than those in the SS system such as my wife but use deferred programs.

  • I’m 62.5 years old, and will have 30 plus years in 2020. I had hoped to retire in 2020. But with all changes, both decided and proposed – I’m Scared!
    I don’t want to slowly break down and die on my job. And from what I’ve read items that were in contract can be voided at anytime. ?

  • Has there been any consideration of not grandfathering health care benefits for those who receive it now, but who’s service provided little in the way of being a funding source for the benefits they have received and continue to receive and would not be eligible under current rules? In particular I am thinking of those who worked part time under OPERS for ten years. Some of these people may be quite wealthy. It means those of us who worked for thirty years or more full time and thus had service which acted as a funding source for the funds used to pay for healthcare are effectively subsidizing them.
    Knowing the same politicians that refused to adequately compensate their employees and thus in part created the healthcare funding problem OPERS has are now themselves receiving healthcare benefits their service never did fund.
    Could there at least be a needs assessment based on income and assets for continued eligibility be put in place for those who receive healthcare benefits that their service did not fund. I am OK with my service and long years of work helping my fellow retires who also worked a long time but were paid poorly, but not with helping those who don’t need the help and worked a short time, part time. Let them pay for there own insurance.

  • What is meant by requiring high years of service to receive a health care allowance if you retire under 65. I will have 32 years of service. Is that going to be enough to receive health care allowance ?

  • Have increased contribution levels for employers and current employees (have the ability to absorb increased costs) been discussed as a possible means to reduce the liability rather than impacting current retirees (don’t have the ability to absorb additional costs while on a fixed income) with reduced benefits?

    • Hi Tracy – Current employees already have extended service time and a reduced COLA based on CPI – I think we have absorbed enough.

  • I’ve heard there was discussion about droppping minimum age back to 48 for LE? Is there truth to this rumor? Also as part of this there was discussion about not providing insurance benefits to those electing to retire at that age. Any more information would be appreciated

  • I will keep this short.

    If OPERS caps a Consumer based CPI at whatever percentage they come up with it will be based on your benefit at retirement, never compounding! That was the way H.B. 413 was designed. For members that have been retired for 10+ years that is a big cut. If they freeze it for 2 years that also could mean a big loss in your monthly benefit. Write your State Representative and let them know your feelings either pro or con. This is the second time I have submitted this post, I guess the first one got lost or was overlooked!

  • While I’m not surprised at the changes being considered, the Boards first responsibility is to keep the pension funded and strive to get 100% of the 30 year funding requirement. Secondly, I would suggest you do away with the under 65 plan without suggesting the open market plan. Being in group C I have seen and experienced many of the changes within retirement and health care system. As a volunteer for OSHIIP, I have also experienced the OPERS members transitioning members into the health care connector. The transition should be much smoother than it is, my greatest disappointment is many members are unaware how the transition from under 65 to Medicare to enrollment with the connector. I truly feel OPERS failed to assist in a smooth transition. That being said, please do no favors to Group C and end any health care opportunities with the open market because you are doing a DISSERVICE to the member who may not understand how the markets work or what is available to them at an affordable price. My advice to OPERS members is to work until age 65 or longer, save for retirement, and do not count on any Health Care money to pay for your benefits. TO THE OPERS BOARD: I am trusting you to make hard decisions more so get the systems funding to 100% and keep there, if you can’t do this, maybe a new board will. Thank you.

  • I have over 25 years in OPERS and am placed in category C. I work in a prison I have already got severely messed over what got me through these difficult years that have realer havoc on my health now. More years is completely untenable to me, I have more them payed my dues. I was promised the same as the currently retired and think it only fair to give me the same. I will not let this job kill ne and deserve my retirement. So many of my fellow colleagues have died from ages 58-62 and I want no demand true equity. No more taking from me.

  • Anyone working outside of any other State Retirement system has to work until 65 to qualify for Medicare or they have do not have insurance. Those that are fortunate enough to have a private retirement, do not have insurance coverage when they retire. I knew that health coverage was not guaranteed when I retired in 2006 when everything was rosy. I also knew that cola was not going to increase which is actually reducing percentage wise each year. OPERS needs to notify anyone retiring from this point on that you better work until 65 or you do not have insurance. DO NOT MESS with my self reducing percentage cola!

  • I am far less concerned about receiving COLA compared to the extremely important benefit of having health insurance coverage. This should be the focus, in my opinion. My preference would be to end or reduce COLA and continue health insurance for retirees.

  • I understand the need to address the windfall. If these changes require legislative changes, it seems the changes being looked at all falls on the backs of the retiree current and future. OPERS must ALSO push legislation to increase the State of Ohio % of contributions up by at least .5% to 1% in effort to assist in closing the gap. The reduction of workforce over the past years has contributed to the reduction of funds for OPERS to invest for return. I understand the pushback in past but we need to push our legislators to make changes and OPERS must lead the charge to represent the membership. Call your legislators and get involved. OPERS needs to push for changes not just on the back of the members.

  • I’ve been a public employee for about 4 years and every time I read these “updates” they are proposing cutting benefits and making people work longer. This is ridiculous!

  • I’m concerned there will be no medical and a reduced pension when I retire in 28 years. Why even stay a public employee? People should not be forced to work beyond 65. Every time I receive an email or mailed OPERS updates, it’s to inform me of benefit reduction, it’s so disappointing and discouraging.

  • With the way that employer sponsored health insurance plans are continuing to increase (it’s not uncommon to hear of annual increases of 10-20%), I cannot blame OPERS for not committing to continuing health insurance coverage, or for not allowing people to pre-pay for their healthcare coverage. How could OPERS possibly plan for how much money they need to collect from someone to prepay for the health insurance? Especially considering that as we age, our medical expenses tend to go up, which means higher premiums for everyone. Not to mention the fact that many of us are not investing in our health (e.g. eating well, exercising, seaking preventative care, etc.), which compounds over the years.

    Hypothetically, what if I don’t like the health insurance plan that OPERS offers by the time I retire? I’d prefer to save and invest the money myself, rather than pre-paying my health insurance with OPERS, so I have the flexibility to look into the exchanges or individual coverage elsewhere when the time comes.

    Hypothetically, what happens to those pre-paid funds if someone terminates and moves on to a job not in OPERS, or if they just don’t like the plan sponsored by OPERS?

  • Who really believes that once they freeze COLA that the freeze would end in two years. When we negotiated with cities and state over the years, once something went away it never came back. Seems that they are on a mission to destroy everything that was promised over the years.

  • I have said before the equitable way to benefit all would be to eliminate all public and federal pensions and to have everyone contribute to Social Security and Medicare.

    • Um, NO! Give up my 5 grand pension for 1 grand? Forget that. I stayed in a job the payed less than private industry for a reason. The benefits and retirement plan.

      • Many statewide PERS plans contribute to both PERS and social security. You can really build up good multiple pensions.

    • How does eliminating our pensions benefit all? It certainly does not benefit anyone with a federal or OPERS pension. I worked in government as an attorney for 32 years at a significantly lower pay than my counterparts knowing the offsetting reason was the OPERS pension. Choices were made based on the circumstances.

  • What is the rationale of “…restoring 85 percent purchasing power to some retirees who receive lower pensions.” I may be supportive if PERS provided more detail and I understood the reason(s) and the costs for this.

    Without more information, I’d tend to think the “select group of retirees” should have been aware that the COLA was not compounding, health care was not guaranteed and planned accordingly. What I see now is PERS is reducing benefits for many and potentially increasing them for a select group. Though they can’t be faulted for it, if this is for retirees that were able to inflate their FAS when vacation and sick leave payouts counted towards the FAS, I would not be supportive.

    Though it wouldn’t benefit me, if it could be funded, I could potentially support doing something to help off-set the additional health care costs for those that were already retired when the health care benefit for their spouses was eliminated but only if it was done fairly.

    Can PERS provide more information on this potential change?

    • James,

      This provision of restoring purchasing power would apply to about 800 retirees who retired mostly during the high-inflationary decade of the 1970s. We would increase their benefit so their pensions’ buying power represents 85 percent of the original amount.

      –Ohio PERS

  • People underestimate the impact of prolonged periods of low inflation. Since 2008, inflation measured by the CPI-W has only been about 1.3% annually. So if you retired in 2008 with a $3,000 monthly benefit, the value of that base benefit has dropped to 86% of it’s original purchasing power.

    But those fortunate people weren’t stuck with their base benefit, they got 11 years of 3% COLAs. Their benefit would have increased from a base of $3,000 all the way to $3,990. That updated benefit actually has MORE purchasing power than their original benefit – they’ve seen the purchasing power of their benefit go up by nearly 15% since they retired.

    Even if it is simple interest instead of compound interest, an automatic 3% COLA will outpace inflation when inflation is like it has been recently. That is a very expensive benefit to offer, and a compelling argument that the COLA should be capped.

    Rather than asking those people to share in the sacrifices made by other participants, the OPERS board is prepared to leave them grandfathered in, relying on later retirees and current participants to continue to cover the costs.

    • Well put Arch. The 3% fixed COLA is clearly a strain on the system and a risk to us all given market returns and rising health care costs over the same period of time that you’re referring to. Such a fixed COLA is a very rare benefit these days in public pensions, many without a COLA at all, and should indeed be considered for change to better preserve funding for everyone, including future retirees.

      Folks shouldn’t blame OPERS for trying to take necessary steps to preserve our pension system, especially since it’s one of the strongest in the country. I support a transition to a CPI-based COLA for all, capped at 2.5%.

        • Ron,

          A couple things to note. First, cost-of-living adjustments have always been designed to mitigate inflation, not completely cover inflation. When OPERS issued its first COLA, in 1970, inflation was at 6 percent. That COLA was 1.5 percent, and our COLAs during the 1970s always were lower than inflation. We’ve never issued anything greater than a 3 percent COLA.

          Second, if we examine the more-recent past, we get a different story. Inflation over the past 20 years, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has failed to top 3 percent 75 percent of the time. Yet since 2002 we’ve issued a flat, 3 percent COLA, and from 1996-2001 it was 3 percent but tied to inflation.

          –Ohio PERS

          • I can see why in hindsight, promising a 3% annual cola was not sustainable.
            Why would an uncapped cola tied to the CPI-U not be a fair and sustainable approach? (perhaps even trailing by a year or two to allow OPERS investments to catch up with inflation spikes like we had in the 70s).

          • Ron,

            The COLA is meant to lessen the effects of inflation, not make up for it entirely.

            –Ohio PERS

          • It bears repeating that our COLA is not compounded. We only get 3% the first year and it diminishes every year after that.

  • OPERS made a commitment to the people who retired in 2008. And many people considered that solid commitment when they made their decision to retire. Retiring is not an easy decision, there are lots of risks, and a big risk is that inflation will wipe away the value of the retirement.

    As with many risks, it can go either way. Or it can go one way for awhile and then change.

    The 3% COLA is written into law. The healthcare is not. I believe healthcare is going to go away eventually since it is not a requirement. I think we should protect the COLA for everyone. And everyone should get *at least* what they were promised.

  • OPERS is not contributing to the Health Care fund. They remind us all the time that Health Care is discretionary, and their first obligation is to fund pensions. Health Care is too costly and one way or another, it is going away.

    If you want Health Care (and I *do*) then back and vote for people who will provide Health Care to all citizens. Get it off OPERS back, get it off the employers’ backs.

    Let OPERS do what it was intended to do from the beginning – fund pensions.

  • If you plan on retiring in 2020, you will likely not get a COLA for 1 year, or now maybe 2 years due to a ‘new retiree delay’ considerations … with an additional freeze in 2022 and 2023 for everyone, would that not mean a total 3 years with NO COLA for anyone retiring in 2020 (considering both the delay and a freeze occurring concurrently)? Tell me I am wrong!

    • Dave,

      Anyone who retires in 2020 would receive a CPI-based COLA in 2021. There would be no COLA in 2022 or 2023, then those retirees would be back to the CPI-based COLA in 2024. The two-year wait will begin with those who retire beginning in 2022.

      –Ohio PERS

      • So the member that retire prior to 2021 receive a total of 3 years without a COLA, whereas a member that retires in 2020 and after only waits 2 years by your plan.

        Please look at the timing you are setting up.

        • Mark,

          Under this plan, if a member were to retire prior to 2021, the member would receive a COLA in 2021 but not 2022 or 2023.

          –Ohio PERS

          • Michael,

            The point is those that retire before 2022 will have a total of a 3 year waiting period and those that retire after 2022 will only have a 2 year waiting period on COLA. Look at the math.

    • Wanna explain that to me. If someone choose to work instead struggling to get by with their retirement benefits or choose to work to get healthcare, why in the world should the benefits they earned be cut, reduced or frozen because you think they are double dipping?

    • I’m retired and not working so this doesn’t affect me personally but I’ve always been curious about something. Why do people get so upset about an OPERS retiree collecting their earned retirement benefit and then going back to work again? Why is this any different from someone who worked and paid into social security retiring and going back to work? I cant tell you how many people I know who do that. They worked until they reached social security age, retired and went back to work. No one ever seems to have a problem with that. Just wondering.

      • After 30+ years at age 58, I retired. However, …there are no winners here…Often times because of the elimination of heath care of spouses you don’t have a choice but to return to the workforce. Only to find out that the WEP will substantially reduce your already small SS amount. Then you are penalized from Medicare (high income earner) yea right….because of income you made 2 years ago (2017) and you don’t even know where it went. There is a range and even if you are in the lower bracket, they hit you just as hard as if you are in a higher bracket for Medicare Part B. Your COLA is threatened to be reduced, your HR is threatened elimination or reduced, and possibly your OPERS pension is threatened. Welcome to turning 65 and transitioning to Medicare and oh yea don’t forget you have to pay for supplemental insurance, dental and vision. And to make matters worse some politicians are even eyeing reducing your Medicare coverage. There are no winners here, and OPERS retirees are not rich….so people just try to get along, and have a good life.

  • I retired in 2008. I know that my COLA this year is 3% and that under the proposed plan to be considered by the state legislature it will be frozen for 2022 and 2023, presumably to return to 3% in 2024. What is the current plan for 2020 and 2021? Thanks.

    • Wyatt,

      Those who retired before Jan. 7, 2013, will receive a 3 percent COLA during those two years.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Please post at least one of my comments, especially this one as I think all OPERS members have a right to know about this as well as the plans to address it. Does OPERS still plan to stay invested with Fisher Investments after Ken Fisher’s contoversial comments at a conference last week? This is a good example of where OPERS could be proactive in order to prevent future benefit cuts should this thing spiral out of control. Four other public pension plans including Boston Retirement (248M), Iowa PERS (386M), Michigan Investment Board (600M) and Philadelphia Pensions (54M) have ended their relationship with Fisher Investments (total pulled over 1.2 billion)! Of those remaining including, Georgia Teachers (2.2B), Havermill Retirement (13M), Kansas City PSRS (78M), Miss Public Employees (558), Ohio PERS (840M), SBA Florida (175M) and Texas ERS (339M), Ohio PERS has significant exposure, second only to Georgia Teachers. Please take some time to evaluate whether this is a good place to invest our retirement dollars or not. I would guess that most females would say it was not.

    • Jennifer,

      OPERS is aware of the reported comment and subsequent apology Mr. Fisher made earlier this month. As an institutional investor, with a fiduciary responsibility to our members and retirees, OPERS will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as it relates to our investments.

      Julie, OPERS

        • Jennifer, more investors pulled money out of Fisher Investments today (2.7 pulled) and I strongly encourage OPERS to do the same. In the time period we are living in now, and in light of recent nationwide movements, the behavior displayed by Mr. Fisher is unacceptable. See the article below, but Golden Sachs just terminated their relationship with the firm. OPERS has tremendous exposure and risk with all of our money and it isn’t prudent to stay. Please post this reply because I feel it is important for all members to know what is going on with this.


  • A few things about this topic.

    1) OPERS should never have entered the “insurance” racket to begin with. The fact that some people will have gotten full health benefits while future retirees will likely get no medical is proof positive that it was a mistake that they ever tried to offer this “benefit”. Consider yourselves lucky if you got any health insurance at all from this.

    2) No one is FORCING any of you to retire at 30 years of age, or 32 years, or any other age (unless yuo became disabled). How many of you worked until 44 years to get your full 100% Pension? Almost none — instead you CHOSE to leave the working world early. You CHOSE a life of relaxation and enjoyment — well, that comes at a price. That price is that you are on a fixed income which is a much lower percentage than your full income (since you left early) and now that may or may not cover expenses for the rest of your remaining life. If you didn’t want this, you could have DECIDED to keep working like everyone else.

    3) COLA increases should not be different between different groups. OPERS should simply leave the health insurance racket behind, and ensure that the COLA stays consistent regardless of the group you are in. Why is one group getting a lower % than others? Simple, because OPERS continues to try to keep this health care fund solvent when they SHOULDN’T.

    4) Seeing some of the attitudes on this board is disappointing. Some groups are wanting everything for themselves, without any concern for the other groups. It’s pretty simple in my eyes — the retirees should all be treated the same. This “grandfathering” is pretty ridiculous — it needs to stop. I know that it won’t because of legislature and feelings of entitlement, but no group of retirees are more deserving than any other.

    5) Is there somewhere to investigate/research the OPERS fund’s financials — such as investments, expenses, salaries, etc? These need close scrutiny, because I have a feeling that we’re not being told the whole story on how OUR money (yes, this is OUR money that we contribute) is being invested, allocated, and spent.

    • You can read OPERS financial reports, including the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and the user-friendly Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) on our website at https://www.opers.org/financial/reports.shtml. In addition, you can read our Investment plan and quarterly results at https://www.opers.org/investments/. A quick snapshot of our funded status an quarterly investment returns can be found at https://www.opers.org/newsroom/index.shtml.

    • I worked since well before I was 16 and worked full time since 18 yrs of age. Started with the state at 45 so no way was I working till I was almost 90 in order to get those 42 yrs. I had already worked 42 yrs. at 60. I get partial pension and my social security is substantially reduced. Good thing I am married or would have worked until I died. I have always lived BELOW my means, built a nice new house on a wooded lot and paid it off in full in 10 years. Made sure I had the max in vacation time built up when I left. I have learned that no matter how well you plan for the future, life just has a way of throwing some unexpected curve balls at you. The best you can do is be as ready as you can, start planning early (like when you start working) and enjoy life while saving as much as you can. I do feel the rug was pulled out from under us, but ask either of us if we would ever work again and the answer is an absolute no! We go to Florida 3 months in the winter and have a great life. Your right though pay the price and work until I was 89 to get those 44 yrs. (of course by then I am sure there would have been more changes about a year before I reached 89, just like this time) sure ‘d be rich….and then hand it over to a nursing home and die. I can complain some and still wouldn’t change a thing. 🙂

      • Hello there! Oh I’m not suggesting people work until 80’s. It sounds like you had your finances in order (as well as SS benefits) and did things the right way so you could retire comfortably and at a reasonable age. I am only saying that people who think 30 years of service entitles them to living the rest of their life in luxury are delusional. 30 years is simply the *minimum* you can expect to work before retiring — and so you should expect to have minimum benefits if that’s when you choose to stop working. If they are wanting more benefits than that, they should have worked longer for them.

        And yes, there’s definitely balance in life — no one wants to work until they so old that they’re stuck in a nursing home or dead. So if people want to retire early to enjoy more of life, then it means making some sacrifices along the way. People can’t have everything they want their whole working life, then retire early (yes 30 yrs is retiring early), and then expect the system to support their lifestyle which was likely above their means to begin with. Sounds like you have your situation together, but judging by the responses on here, I’m guessing you’re in the minority.

  • Please post this and previous comments and replies I have sent recently. In addition to this, I would like to be directed to where I can very specifically see where ALL OUR money is invested. 401Ks must provide this with their investment choices for members, I would like to see it for OPERS. I believe we should be entitled to this information and it may be long overdue for members to begin watching where THEIR retirement dollars are being invested.

  • Hi,
    I may be late to this but from reading some of the comments, does this mean that if we make no changes to current healthcare funding, the fund would run out by 2030? OPERS will no longer provide any healthcare benefit to any member.

    Since we are no longer adding money to the healthcare fund, what is the projection for it providing healthcare benefit with the proposed changes in 2022? What is the projection that pre-medicare members receive the allowance? Is the desire to provide some allowance for healthcare forever?

    • Ms. Darst,

      If there are no changes made, the Health Care Fund could run out of money in as soon as eleven years. That is why the OPERS Board has been weighing long-term changes. Throughout the process, the Board has been committed to continued access to health care for current and future retirees for as long as possible.

      For pre-Medicare retirees, the Board is discussing moving to a marketplace concept as one option to preserve OPERS health care coverage. In that scenario, retirees not yet eligible for Medicare would be provided an allowance to purchase a health care plan on the open market. An allowance amount, based on the retiree’s age and years of service, would replace the plan currently offered by OPERS. Nothing has been finalized yet, but the changes would go into effect in January 2022.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I worked for the state of Ohio for 19 yrs and 4 months and left my pension in OPERS until I turn 60 in May of this yr. In 2001, I requested an estimate of what my benefits would be when I retire at 60. The 2001 letter amount and the amount I will get starting June is a $1,200.00 difference. I guess the difference is because of the 2013 changes. As a worker with 19 plus yrs, I should have been grandfathered in and my pension should not have changed. I am trying to figure out why this happen and I will be speaking to someone from OPERS about this. Could you give me some input on this?

    • Linda,

      Since you left public service in 2001, the eligibility requirements have changed. Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 and a member of our staff can assist you.

      Julie, OPERS

  • When I retire if I take the joint life (instead of the single life) and leave a percentage of my monthly benefit to my daughter will she be eligible for the COLA after I pass away? Or is only the retiree eligible for the COLA? Once the retiree passes the beneficiary’s monthly benefit amount is locked in for life?

    • Please forward your questions through the online account message center or contact us at 800-222-7377

    • KA,

      Last year the federal government raised the required minimum distribution age from 70.5 to 72, as part of the SECURE Act. This change applies to all three of the OPERS retirement plans.

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