Q&A: Proposed plan design changes

Updates under consideration will affect only future OPERS members

By Kristen Dohrmann, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

Dec. 12, 2019 – You’ve heard about new membership tiers, new retirement groups and new plans. So, you’re probably wondering: what does this mean to me? In short – not much. That’s because the changes being considered by the Board will only impact new members.

Let’s break down these changes.

What is Group D? Group D is simply another retirement group in which new members hired after Jan. 1, 2022 will be classified. Group D members will have their own set of retirement eligibility requirements, benefit structure and features – just like our other retirement groups (A, B and C).

Group D is not a specific retirement plan. In fact, new members in Group D will have the opportunity to choose from two OPERS retirement plans: the Traditional Pension Plan and a modified Member-Directed Plan.

Why are we proposing a Group D? As new generations enter the workforce, OPERS must continue to adapt and change to ensure we are offering retirement plans that are relevant and meet the needs of tomorrow’s workers. Group D will have its own eligibility requirements, benefit structure and unique member features designed to meet those needs.

The changes we’re proposing will also help OPERS address expected investment market volatility and adjust to the lack of available funding for health care.

What’s going on with the Combined Plan? Under the proposed changes, the Combined Plan would merge into the Traditional Pension Plan. It would not be available  to new members hired in 2022 and beyond. If you’re currently enrolled in the Combined Plan, this merger will not affect you or any of your plan features such as retirement eligibility requirements or benefits.

Why are we modifying the Member-Directed Plan? The proposed modifications to the Member-Directed Plan would align future benefits in that plan with the ones offered in the Traditional Pension Plan. Taking a fresh look at the Member-Directed Plan design in today’s market and exploring changes allows us to ensure parity among our retirement plans.

Perhaps the biggest thing to take away from this article is that these changes are all proposals being considered by the Board and the details and implementation dates can (and likely will) change.

Although these changes won’t impact you, we still want you to be informed on the actions your Board of Trustees is taking to meet the needs of all members (past, present and future) and continue providing secure retirement benefits.

Kristen Dohrmann

Kristen Dohrmann is a senior communications specialist with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Kristen is responsible for active member communications including the quarterly member newsletter, OPERS News. She has more than 10 years of experience as a communicator in the public sector.

Kristen Dohrmann

Senior Communication Specialist

79 thoughts on “Q&A: Proposed plan design changes

  • December 12, 2019 at 10:30 am
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    My question is about health care changes for those of us who are already retired, but won’t be 65 by the time the new health care plan is implemented in 2022.

    I’m 61 now but won’t be able to use Medicare until 2023. Does this mean I’ll have to buy my health care on the open market for a year?

    Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 11:41 am
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      As proposed, beginning in 2022 pre-Medicare retirees will be given an allowance to purchase their health care or other qualified medical expenses instead of purchasing their insurance through OPERS. The details are still being worked out, but the allowance amount will be based on your age and years of service.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
    • December 23, 2019 at 12:49 pm
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      My questions is about health care changed. I will be 61 when I retire but I won’t be able to use Medicare until 2023. Does that mean I’ll have to buy my health care on the open market for a year?

      Reply
    • December 26, 2019 at 8:16 pm
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      I want to retire February 4 2022 will this affect me with health care

      Reply
      • January 6, 2020 at 11:19 am
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        Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 and we can answer your questions about your specific situation.

        Julie

        Reply
  • December 12, 2019 at 3:49 pm
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    i’m 65 in august 2020.. i will be going on medicare at that time. what will my pers benefits be? and will they remain that way or are those benefits going away?? i can not keep up with all these changes and it worries me that in august, i will find out i have no pers medical help at all. if that is going to be the case, i just want to know now.

    Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 11:39 am
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      Ms. Zielinski,

      Please be assured that OPERS is still offering access to health care. The Board is expected to vote next year on health care changes that will be implemented in January 2022.

      As a Medicare-eligible retiree, you will select your health insurance using the OPERS Medicare Connector, and will receive a monthly allowance into a Health Reimbursement Arrangement to reimburse yourself the cost of qualified medical expenses. The amount of the allowance hasn’t been finalized yet. For more information, go to https://www.opers.org/healthcare/plan-options/connector.shtml.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • December 12, 2019 at 6:32 pm
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    Thank you for the info. I’m retired but not always aware or understanding of changes. Happy Holidays!
    Pat Strubbe

    Reply
  • December 13, 2019 at 12:25 pm
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    Thank you for the update. I understand that the changes will not affect my current plan (member directed) but what if, in the future, I choose to switch to the traditional plan? Would I be placed into group D or group C (I was hired in 2018).

    Reply
    • December 13, 2019 at 3:54 pm
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      You would remain in Group C.

      Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 12:55 pm
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    I will have 10 year in January 2021. What will I be eligible at age 68 for Instance thanks Dave

    Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 1:23 pm
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    For clarification, if we are currently members of the combined plan will we automatically be enrolled in the ‘traditional’ plan? If so, when would this change take place?

    Reply
    • December 23, 2019 at 4:23 pm
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      The Combined Plan will be folded into the Traditional Pension Plan and will be closed off for those hired after 2022 according to a plan approved by the Board. It will not affect the plan design for those enrolled before that date.

      Julie

      Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 1:27 pm
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    Are spouses of retirees eligible for health care through OPERS beyond 2020?

    Reply
    • December 23, 2019 at 4:10 pm
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      Spouses of OPERS retirees are eligible to purchase health care through OPERS at full cost. For more information, go to http://www.opers.org/healthcare.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 1:38 pm
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    I am in the Group B and am enrolled in the Combined Plan. I started working for the state in 2004; I was 46 at the time. Is the only way I can get any health insurance (or payment for it) is if I work until 2024 (when I’ll be 66)?

    Reply
      • January 6, 2020 at 12:32 pm
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        If I retire at age 55 with 31 years of service after 2022, under the current proposal what are my health insurance options with OPERS?

        Reply
        • January 7, 2020 at 4:28 pm
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          Under the current proposal, if you retire after 2022, you must be eligible for an unreduced pension in order to be eligible for health care.

          Eligibility requirements differ by group: Group A, 30 years at any age; Group B: 32 years at any age or 31 years. min. age 52; Group C: 32 years and min. age 55. For more information, see the eligibility chart at https://www.opers.org/members/pension-hc-eligibility/

          Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 1:52 pm
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    I am in Group C with 10+ years of service.

    If I were ever to leave state service for a few years (for the private sector, for example), and then be rehired into state service at some point after Jan. 1, 2022, would I be treated as a member of Group C or Group D? (This scenario assumes that I leave my OPERS benefits in the system and do not withdraw anything.)

    Reply
    • December 23, 2019 at 5:27 pm
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      You would still be in Group C. Under the current proposal, Group D is for new employees hired after Jan. 1, 2022.

      Julie

      Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 2:10 pm
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    What does this do for Group A people? or does it do anything

    Reply
    • December 23, 2019 at 4:04 pm
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      The Group D proposal, and the changes to the Combined and Member-Directed Plans, impact new employees hired after Jan. 1, 2022.

      Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 2:53 pm
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    Is there any chance of ODRC going to 25 years for full retirement. Considering the life expectancy of a correctional officer (58 years old) the change to 32 years was ridiculous.

    Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 5:04 pm
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    I would love to hear how you propose to fill the needed Correctional Officer openings if you implement this plan. You can’t fill the openings now and there is no way you will fill them with people knowing they have to work 35 years and be 62 to retire.
    It was completely disrespectful to ignore us when the prior changes were made and these changes will just complicate things. Running a secure facility at 75 percent staff now is nearly impossible. It will only get worse!

    Reply
    • December 25, 2019 at 1:16 pm
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      Your right Keith, but this affects many other departments. I started at a county highway dept. at the age of 20, I am now 56 with 35+ years of service. When I started I knew the pay was not the best, but the benefits were good including the retirement. For the first 20 years or more turnover was rare, most of the people that left retired with 30 plus years. That has changed over the past decade.
      Much of the work involved in road and bridge construction/maintenance is physically demanding. This type of work takes a toll on your body, I can’t imagen starting at 20 and working a minimum of 42 years for an “unreduced benefit”. After group D starts in 2022 I think it will be much more difficult to hire young people who want to make a career of a government job, but maybe that is what OPERS wants, people to work 10 to 20 years and then quit instead of retiring.
      I had always planned to work about 35 years but now with the upcoming changes to retirees health insurance I don’t know. I have 9 years until 65, yes I am eligible for Medicare through my wife.

      Reply
      • January 6, 2020 at 11:23 am
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        The Group D proposal is still under consideration. Nothing has been finalized.

        Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 5:06 pm
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    I will have 30 years in March, and I am only 58 do I qualify for health care???

    Reply
    • December 23, 2019 at 5:32 pm
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      OPERS offers health care coverage to retirees 60 or older with at least 20 years of qualifying service, and to all retirees with 30-32 years of qualifying service depending on their group. For more information, go to https://www.opers.org/members/pension-hc-eligibility/

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 5:06 pm
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    Any further clarification on possibility of group d ( or other groups) to purchase service time?

    Reply
    • December 23, 2019 at 5:35 pm
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      The Group D proposal is still under consideration. Nothing has been finalized.

      Reply
      • December 24, 2019 at 10:08 am
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        groups B and C would like the opportunity to purchase service time if it is offered to group D – it would only be fair……………..make it happen OPERS.

        Reply
        • January 14, 2020 at 6:31 pm
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          I agree. I was moved to group C after 14 years of service, will have 35 years when I’m eligible to draw, would love any opportunity to buy back some of my added sentencing.
          Also believe the non-enticing changes with group D won’t attract new hires to sustain the pension for us future retirees, and I’m sure by the time we can draw all the people responsible for the bad investments in private equity with public pension funds that’s caused all these changes will be long gone and the people who have to make more cuts to us future retirees will blame it on them people or a bad economy. 👍

          Reply
          • January 16, 2020 at 2:26 pm
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            The Group D proposal is still under consideration. Nothing has been finalized.

  • December 23, 2019 at 7:17 pm
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    I started with pers in 2002 and I’m coming up on 19 years of service. I was young and thought this was going to be a great opportunity to have a nice pension when I retire. Unfortunately with the ever fasting changes this is no longer the case. Why is it that we were not grandfathered in? it’s as though we are being punished for taking on the stress in the correctional field for years and years and then having poor health at retirement age is a result of it. I know of too many cases for mental health or for house that may or may not have been as a result of the job has been the cause of death for many employees. is there any consideration for those who have had to work in the correctional field for them to retire at 30 years with full benefits?

    Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 7:49 pm
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    I am very frustrated with all these changes, not that OPERS cares how any of us feel. When I was hired 30 years ago I was told, “you will retire with full benefits with just 30 years and you will have health insurance”. I am now having to work 32 years, no cost of living for 2 or 3 years, and no health insurance all thanks to OPERS letting people dou

    ble dip for years and giving insurance to spouses. Thanks a lot!!

    Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 8:40 pm
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    I was hired in 1989. I currently working on 33 years payed into opers. If I understand everything correctly I’m in group A. If I decide to retire sometime in 2020. Would I have to be 60 years old. I’m 53 years old.

    Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 9:26 pm
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    Trying to understand the healthcare. I will be 52 with 31+ years and eligible to retire November 1, 2020. I still won’t be eligible for healthcare until I’m 60? Would I be eligible and then ineligible in in 2022 or not eligible at all?

    Reply
  • December 24, 2019 at 8:55 am
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    Will the retirement plan eligibility chart be updated? The last one is dated Dec. 31, 2012
    I just don’t understand how with 19 yrs of service I am in group C just like the new hires and others who have the same number of service years but are older are in Group B ???

    Reply
    • January 6, 2020 at 11:28 am
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      The eligibility chart on the website is still in effect. For more information about your situation, check your annual statement in your online account.

      Reply
  • December 24, 2019 at 5:47 pm
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    I’m in Group C and will have 30 years in 2029, I will be 60 in 2029, if I decided to retire and not work 32 years, would I be eligible for insurance in 2029?

    Reply
    • January 6, 2020 at 11:25 am
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      Looking ahead to 2029 under the current proposal, as a member of Group C with 30 years of service, you will be eligible for a reduced pension and but not access to health care. The current proposal for health care access is age 65 with 20 years of service or unreduced group eligibility.

      If you decide to work an additional two years, you will receive a full, unreduced pension and will have access to health care. For more information, go to https://www.opers.org/members/pension-hc-eligibility.

      Julie. OPERS

      Reply
  • December 25, 2019 at 11:02 am
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    I will have 32 years in at age 55. So what does this mean for me?

    Reply
    • January 6, 2020 at 11:24 am
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      With 32 years of service when you retire at age 55, you will be eligible for access to OPERS health care. As proposed, beginning in 2022, pre-Medicare retirees will be given an allowance to purchase health insurance on the open market. The allowance amount hasn’t been finalized yet but will be based on your age and years of service.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • December 26, 2019 at 8:53 am
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    Hello
    I have 32 years paid into OPERS . I’m in group A. I’m 52 years old. If I retire in 2020 will I have health insurance. I hope I don’t have to work until age 60 to receive health insurance.

    Reply
    • January 6, 2020 at 11:21 am
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      David,

      OPERS offers health care coverage to retirees 60 or older with at least 20 years of qualifying service, and to all retirees with 30-32 years of qualifying service depending on their group. Under current eligibility, since you’ll have 32 years of service in 2020, you will have access to OPERS health care. For more information, go to https://www.opers.org/members/pension-hc-eligibility

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • December 27, 2019 at 11:57 am
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    Please be aware:

    > The open market [exchange] does not offer PPO plans.

    > The open market health [exchange] only offers HMO plans.

    > The HMO plans provide extremely limited network coverage.

    > The costs of HMO premiums vary greatly from county to county.

    > The amount of credit [subsidy] available on the open market [exchange] is dependent on the household gross income.

    The proposed health care changes for OPERS retirees under age 65 will be highly disruptive to the many retirees whose lives are already disrupted by chronic illnesses and disabilities. OPERS is on the verge of denying its health care coverage to OPERS retirees with pre-existing conditions.

    Reply
    • January 6, 2020 at 11:16 am
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      While we understand health care coverage is part of a meaningful retirement, our retirees’ pensions are a guaranteed benefit and must be funded first. Health care is discretionary; it cannot jeopardize pension funding.

      Under the current proposal, we would eliminate the group health care plan for non-Medicare retirees and replace it with an open-market model. Pre-Medicare retirees will be given an allowance to purchase their health care coverage or other qualified medical expenses instead of purchasing their insurance through OPERS. The details are still being worked out, but the allowance amount will be based on your age and years of service.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
      • January 10, 2020 at 10:34 am
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        Julie,

        Thanks for your reply.

        Maybe it would be helpful to name this group: non-Medicare retirees and retirees with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses?

        Regarding the allowance, in addition to age and years of service, maybe OPERS can take into consideration age of disability and years of unrealized income due to disability? Can’t there be a grandparent clause?

        Thanks and in partnership.

        Reply
  • December 31, 2019 at 12:08 am
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    I agree with Keith Parsons but across all areas of public service in Ohio. It will be impossible for the state to convince young individuals to climb aboard with the changes you are planning to the healthcare package. One of the main reasons people accepted lower pay checks to start with (compared to the private sector) was because of the benefits package offered by the state of Ohio. You (OPERS) have slowly chipped away this advantage. Unless you plan to offer something great to Group D members and totally forget about those already employed and retired… To be honest, nothing would surprise me at this point!
    OPERS needs to do some basic math and realize they are paying entirely too much for investment fees. And you have lost too much money in certain years when you should have at least broke even, after all, you tell all of us you do not invest in risky investments… In addition, there are far too few people actively working right now to pay into the system to support the retiree base. And raises have not kept pace. So if you have less people actively working and paying into the program and the percentage they ARE paying in is less because of lower salaries, no wonder you have a pension problem! And add in the questionable investments on top of that… AND, now you want to take away healthcare, first for spouses and now for anyone that retires before age 65 and Medicare eligible! Your only move left will be to take healthcare away from EVERYBODY and force everyone onto the open market! I’m not sure if people realize it or not but they will NEVER find healthcare on the open market anywhere near comparable to what they have now!!! OPERS could not even begin to reimburse for the cost of something comparable bc (a) it doesn’t exist and (b) if it did exist, you would have to reimburse at such a high rate that you could not stay solvent! This whole healthcare thing bothers me to the core! Having good healthcare was a promise made in exchange for accepting lower wages than a private sector job would have paid. I believe many feel extremely betrayed… Please post my comment.

    Reply
  • December 31, 2019 at 8:03 am
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    In the future can we get the OPERS board to consider partnering with a health center like Metrohealth Medical center in Cleveland, which offers their own health insurance plan to their employees, and other county workers, …Of course you mainly have to use their facilities for your healthcare , But for a much less expensive healthcare payment it would be worth it… After all when you are retired it’s all about saving your pennies.

    Reply
  • January 3, 2020 at 8:02 pm
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    I plan on retiring on April 1, 2021 with 24 years of service. I bought back 4 years of military service in 2005 so I will have 20 years of service and 24 years for retirement. Currently have VA coverage and be on Medicare February 1, 2020.

    My concern is the health coverage. I have been told by people at work that it is not good. At least, I have the VA and Medicare to back me up plus the key is staying healthy. I still will probably go through the state coverage even though everybody says it is not good.

    Does it cover dental/vision or have to find some place else?

    I always want the facts and not be sugar coated and/or get a spin with a response. I have been around long enough and have life experiences to know the difference.

    Send me your response.

    Reply
    • January 7, 2020 at 4:34 pm
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      We offer in-person seminars and websinars to help you transition to the Connector and to teach you how to use your HRA.. You can find more information about educational opportunities at https://www.opers.org/retirees/education/index.shtml.

      Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 to discuss your health care options.

      Julie

      Reply
  • January 4, 2020 at 5:46 pm
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    Has any conversations been heard on the opera retirees not getting what’s owed from social security? Will this ever change?

    Reply
  • January 6, 2020 at 4:11 pm
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    If I’m eligible to retire in 2020 at the age of 52 and 31+ years and group B I understand I’m eligible for healthcare under OPERS. What happens if I retire after 2022 with 33 years but only the age of 54, under the age of 60?

    Reply
    • January 7, 2020 at 4:27 pm
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      Sherry,

      Under the current proposal, if you retire after 2022, you must be eligible for an unreduced pension in order to be eligible for health care.

      Eligibility requirements differ by group: Group A, 30 years at any age; Group B: 32 years at any age or 31 years. min. age 52; Group C: 32 years and min. age 55. For more information, see the eligibility chart at https://www.opers.org/members/pension-hc-eligibility/

      Julie

      Reply
  • January 7, 2020 at 1:13 pm
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    i currently have 16 years invested in OPERS( group c..) if I was to take another job outside of OPERS for a couple years ..and then decide to come back to a OPERS ..would I still be in group c.. ? thank you

    Reply
    • January 7, 2020 at 4:25 pm
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      Michelle,

      If you leave public employment, you can leave your account on deposit and become an inactive member. For more information go to https://www.opers.org/members/refunds.shtml and scroll down to “Can I leave my money with OPERS?”. If you decide to come back to an OPERS employer, you would remain in Group C.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • January 9, 2020 at 2:23 am
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    I know I am now retired but to ask for all pers workers to give 10.00 a pay that would be non-taxable to the healthcare fund in order to invest it seems to be a less stressful solution. Since I believe when opers raised the amount for the pension i thought it was to help in the investment of the health fund. Wouldn’t 10.00 a pay help the healthcare fund? What about a slight increase in the amount taken out for retirement wouldn’t that help? It seems to me that the only solutions the board members come up with is to reduce benefits.

    Reply
  • January 9, 2020 at 9:42 am
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    If I retire in Jan 2023, under group B (31 yrs in 2022, age 58) what would my health care look like, vs retiring late in 2022? I would have unreduced pension eligibility, but OPERS appears to be dumping retirees into the health care marketplace after 2021, is there any hope for a pension-based health care that we were promised when we hired on? I have reviewed market based insurance and the premiums are excessive and the benefits are meager…. I would fare better continuing to work for my current health benefits and taking disbursement from my pension, but there is such negative attitude toward “double-dipping” thru retire/rehire options offered in some locations who struggle to refill vacated jobs.

    Reply
    • January 10, 2020 at 12:39 pm
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      Dean,

      Please schedule an appointment with an OPERS counselor or call us at 1-800-222-7377 to have all your questions answered.

      Julie

      Reply
  • January 9, 2020 at 2:08 pm
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    Given the proposed changes, would it make fiscal sense to retire prior to 2022, with a reduced pension benefit, but eligible (over 60) to get healthcare, or is it still better to wait until I’m unreduced benefit-eligible, even though I will need to purchase my own healthcare until I’m 65 (3 years worth)? I have 27.5 years of service, if that helps.
    If it’s basically a wash or trade: more monthly pension but greater healthcare expense vs. less healthcare expense, but also less monthly pension (reduced benefit), then retiring early prior to 2022 may be an option for me now.
    Hope that makes sense and thank you in advance for your response.

    Reply
    • January 10, 2020 at 12:38 pm
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      Andrea,

      To see the impact of different retirement scenarios, it would be best if you schedule an appointment with an OPERS counselor or call us at 1-800-222-7377 and have all your questions answered.

      Julie, OPERS

      Reply
  • January 13, 2020 at 12:05 pm
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    I retired in 2007 with 30 years of service credit. I am now 67. I did not work enough quarters in the private sector to receive Medicare Part A at no cost. As it is, I pay CMS and am reimbursed for the Part A premium amount in my monthly pension deposit. As former employees in my situation did not have the opportunity to contribute to Social Security but rather contributed to OPERS, will we continue to be reimbursed for the full amount of the Part A premium as OPERS modifies its health benefits policy? I have not seen this question answered in this blog or elsewhere in OPERS materials.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 2:25 pm
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      Yes, the Board voted to continue the current Med A reimbursement program.

      Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 10:33 am
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    I retired in 2016 with 31 years of service which puts me in Group A. I am 60 and currently rehired in a PERS position with employer benefits. How will this new program affect me when I leave this second position?

    Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 2:25 pm
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      Carol,

      Once you leave re-employment, you are treated the same as any retiree. You should meet with a counselor or call us before leaving re-employment to understand your options.

      Julie

      Reply
  • January 15, 2020 at 7:46 pm
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    I am a pre-Medicare re-employed member. If the health care changes become effective in 2022 and I turn 65 in 2022, how will this effect me? I am eligible for Medicare in Dec 2022.

    Reply
    • January 17, 2020 at 3:13 pm
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      The OPERS Board passed health care changes that will go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2022. Instead of purchasing health care through OPERS, you will be given an allowance, based on your age and years of service, towards your health insurance premiums and other eligible health care expenses. Once you are eligible for Medicare, your allowance amount will change and you will be able to purchase coverage in addition to Medicare.

      Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 7:13 am
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    After reading the materials sent to me, I am confused and do not understand what or how the upcoming healthcare changes will affect me. I am a retiree of over 19 years who retired at age 52 with 30 years of service. What can I expect in the future as we know it today. Thank you!

    Reply
    • January 17, 2020 at 3:14 pm
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      The health care changes were approved by the OPERS Board will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. We will have more information in the coming weeks with specifics on how the changes will impact you. Please continue to read the blog and your retiree newsletter for more information.

      Reply

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