(5/29/13) - Catholic Health Partners announced today that it has reached tentative agreements to purchase the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Ohio, and Ohio Permanente Medical Group, Inc.[Read More...]
Catholic Health Partners said in a press release that it would continue to provide health care for more than 80,000 current Kaiser Permanente Ohio members and operate existing offices in northeast Ohio.
Benefit recipients and dependents who are enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente HMO and Kaiser Permanente Medicare Plus plans should not expect to see any immediate changes due to this announcement.[Hide]
(5/24/13) - A SERS retiree recently received a phone call from a person pretending to be from one of SERS’ health care providers. The caller told the retiree that he needed her banking information before he could send her a new medical card. Sensing something was not right, the SERS retiree ended the call without giving out personal information.
If you receive a similar call, do not give out any personal information and call SERS toll-free at 800-878-5853 to report the incident. Medical providers do not need your banking information or Social Security number. You also can call the phone number of your medical provider (usually listed on your ID card) to be sure you are talking with actual company representatives.[Read More...]
SERS does not place phone calls to members and retirees, or send staff door-to-door to ask for personal information. However, if you call us, we will ask you a series of questions to verify your personal information and identity.
When you call us, we need your name, Social Security number, date of birth, telephone number, and email address, if you have one. We ask for this information in order to protect your personal SERS information.[Hide]
(5/21/13) - SERS Health Care Services has learned that the Medicare “Extra Help” checks mailed on May 10 to more than 1,600 SERS retirees cannot be cashed due to a printing error. If you received one of these checks, do not try to cash it.[Read More...]
Express Scripts will correct the printing problem and issue new checks. Checks mailed on May 10 will be voided. If you received one of these checks, please be sure to cut it up or shred it for security reasons.
If you have any questions, please contact SERS toll-free at 800-878-5853 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your patience.[Hide]
(4/30/13) - As of today, all travel expense reimbursement requests for the NCPERS Annual Conference scheduled in Hawaii have been withdrawn by the members who requested the travel. We have informed the legislature of this development.
While we still believe in the educational value of this conference, the travel issue has become a major distraction to the important work we do for members and retirees. The actions that legislators took yesterday would significantly impair the work SERS Board and staff does and we hope that by withdrawing the travel we can avoid these restrictions.[Read More...]
As a Board, we have significant decisions to make regarding investments in the next few months and we will do our best to keep SERS well-funded for the future. We appreciate the comments we have received from members and retirees, and we ask for your continued support as we move forward in governing SERS.
Beverly A. Woolridge[Hide]
(4/16/13) - On April 11, Governor John Kasich appointed Daniel L. Wilson of Beachwood to the School Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees. Wilson replaces Richard Sensenbrenner whose term ended Sept. 28, 2012. Wilson will be sworn in at the April 18 Board meeting and his term runs through Sept. 27, 2016.[Read More...]
Since 2004, Wilson has served as the chief financial officer for the Mentor Exempted Village Board of Education. From 2003-2004, he served as associate superintendent for the Center of School Finance and Accountability at the Ohio Department of Education. He has also served as chief financial officer/budget director at the Parma Board of Education in Cuyahoga County and worked as a treasurer at the Shaker Heights Board of Education, Canton City Board of Education, Stark County Board of Education, South-Western City Board of Education, and Woodridge Local Board of Education. In all, Wilson has more than 39 years of public service to school districts in Ohio.
Wilson is the Past-President of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Past Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation for School Business Management, and served two terms on the SERS Board as an elected member from July 1, 1992-June 30, 1996, and as a governor appointee from Sept. 28, 2004-Sept. 28, 2008.
Wilson earned his BS in business administration from the University of Akron.[Hide]
(1/10/13) SERS has received the 2013 federal tax withholding tables. The new tables will be effective for February benefit payments. Benefit recipients who had federal taxes withheld from their January payment will see a slight decrease in the tax withheld. However, recipients who receive their cost of living adjustment in February may see an increase in withholding as a result of the increased benefit amount.[Read More...]
Recipients can change their withholding amount at any time by completing IRS form W-4P. This form, Federal Withholding Certificate for Monthly Pension Payments, can be found on SERS’ website at www.ohsers.org/Document/Get/4582. If you need a form sent to you, please call SERS toll-free at 800-878-5853.[Hide]
(1/3/13) - SERS members who retire or begin receiving a pension benefit on or after Jan. 7, 2013, must be eligible for Medicare Part B and be enrolled in SERS’ health care coverage to receive a Medicare Part B reimbursement.[Read More...]
SERS currently reimburses eligible benefit recipients $45.50 per month to help pay Medicare Part B premiums. If your Medicare Part B coverage is cancelled, or your Part B premium is paid by any other source, such as your state, union, employer, Medicaid or other entity, you are not eligible for the reimbursement. Reimbursement starts after SERS receives proof of Medicare Part B enrollment.
The Medicare Part B reimbursement will end if SERS’ health care coverage is cancelled or Medicare Part B enrollment ends. Spouses and dependents are not eligible for this reimbursement.
Benefit recipients who are eligible for Medicare Part B and already receiving a benefit before Jan. 7, 2013, are not affected by this change.
To be eligible to receive a Medicare Part B reimbursement you must either be:
(1) a benefit recipient whose benefit began before Jan 7, 2013 and who was eligible for Medicare Part B before Jan. 7, 2013, or
(2) a benefit recipient who is eligible for Medicare Part B and who is enrolled in SERS’ health care coverage.[Hide]
(12/27/12) - The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) usually issues new tax withholding tables in early December for the following year. However, because of the current negotiations between the President and Congress regarding tax reform, the IRS cannot produce the 2013 withholding tables. Although a compromise may be reached soon, SERS’ January 2013 benefit payments have already been processed using the 2012 tables.[Read More...]
This means that recipients will not see a change in the amount withheld unless they received a Cost-of-Living Adjustment increase or recently submitted a new withholding form to SERS.
We will post an update on our website when the 2013 tables are issued. We also will provide information at that time about the general impact of the 2013 tables on individual withholding.[Hide]
(12/18/12) – A cost estimate calculator for the new “buy-up” option is now available to SERS members. To access the calculator, please log on to your Member Account. Once you have signed in, click on the “Buy-Up Cost Estimate” link.[Read More...]
(11/28/12) - Beginning today, SERS will join seven other institutional investors in an effort to encourage S&P 500 and Fortune 500 public companies to move to annual elections. A move to annual elections, which are widely viewed as corporate governance best practice, could make directors more accountable and thereby contribute to improving performance and increasing firm value.[Read More...]
The other institutional investors joining the Shareholder Rights Project are the Florida State Board of Administration, the Illinois State Board of Investment, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the North Carolina State Treasurer, and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.
Click here to read the news release.
The SERS Retirement Board recently approved changes that expanded the eligibility standard for a health care premium subsidy.
The changes affect benefit recipients whose benefit effective date is on or after Aug. 1, 2008.[Read More...]
Under the expanded standard, a benefit recipient must have at least 20 years of qualified service credit, and at the time of retirement or separation of service be:
Anyone with 20 or more years of qualified service who moved into a part-time position prior to retirement but who lost eligibility for the school’s health care coverage, may now be eligible for a premium subsidy.
We mailed letters to those benefit recipients who might qualify for a premium subsidy.
A special health care coverage reinstatement period runs through Dec. 14, 2012.
If you think you might be eligible but have not been contacted, please call us toll-free at 800-878-5853.[Hide]
(11/14/12) - Prudential Insurance Company of America has announced it will not accept new enrollments of SERS’ members and benefit recipients for group long-term care coverage after June 30, 2013.
Current plan participants will continue to have coverage after June 30.[Read More...]
Long-term care insurance pays a specified amount per day for custodial care to assist with the activities of daily living. SERS does not administer or subsidize the cost of this insurance.
Enrollment is open to members who have contributed to the retirement system for the previous 18 months, as well as retirees and benefit recipients. Prudential will accept new enrollees if enrollment is completed by June 30, 2013. To learn more about the coverage or to enroll, contact Prudential toll-free at 800-732-0416 or visit www.prudential.com/gltcweb. To log onto the site, enter “school” into the Group Name field, “retirement” into the Access Code field, and choose “OH” from the State of Residence drop-down menu. Finally, click the “login” button to enter the site.
SERS is looking into other long-term care coverage options for members who may want to enroll after June 30, 2013.[Hide]
(11/5/12) - SERS received word on Friday of a postal delay in the delivery of an unknown number of November pension checks.
The U.S. Postal Service explained that Columbus is a hub for delivery to much of the eastern United States. Due to Hurricane Sandy and the inability to deliver this mail to multiple locations on the East Coast, there is a back-up of mail in the Columbus post office. This back-up along with the increased volume of political mailing has delayed the delivery of an unknown number of SERS’ pension checks.[Read More...]
We apologize for this delay and are working diligently with the U.S. Postal Service to remedy the issue as quickly as possible.
SERS strongly encourages all retirees to have their pension payments paid directly to a bank or credit union. You can request a direct deposit of your funds to assure that your payment will be available on the first of every month. Direct deposit eliminates any concerns about late, lost, or stolen checks.[Hide]
In celebration of our 75th anniversary this year, SERS held a contest asking students statewide to honor their favorite school employees through art.[Read More...]
(9/26/12) - Today, Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 341, SERS’ pension reform bill, into law. While most provisions in the bill become effective Jan. 7, 2013, the age and service eligibility changes for retirement won’t take effect until Aug. 1, 2017.
Click here to watch a video statement about SERS’ pension reform changes from Executive Director Lisa Morris.[Read More...]
SERS’ pension reform bill did NOT include changes to employee or employer contributions, cost of living adjustments (COLAs), or the three-year final average salary.
However, the legislature did include several modifications that were awaiting legislative action, some for several years. In most cases, these modifications modernize SERS’ existing statutes on disability, survivor benefits, and health care.
SERS will be sending a special mailing to all members detailing the changes in SERS’ pension reform bill, including the modifications that affect member benefits. The next issue of News & Views also will include information about these changes.
To see how SERS’ pension reform changes compare with the other four Ohio pension systems’ pension reform changes, click here.[Hide]
(9/19/12) - Express Scripts members once again have prescription coverage at Walgreens pharmacies.[Read More...]
Walgreens rejoined the Express Scripts pharmacy network on September 15. Just show your Express Scripts ID card to receive the same low co-pays on generic and preferred brand drugs.[Hide]
(9/12/12) - Today, Senate Bill 341, SERS’ pension reform bill, was passed unanimously by the House, and the Senate concurred with the House amendments. It will now go to the governor for his signature. Following the governor’s signature, the bill becomes effective January 7, 2013.[Read More...]
All of the SERS Board-approved age and service changes were accepted without changes.
An amendment giving the SERS Board the authority to adjust future age and service changes based on the results of the required five-year actuarial experience study will be delayed for 180 days after January 7, 2013. This delay enables the Ohio Retirement Study Council time to review all five retirement systems’ board-authority provisions, and make recommendations.
SERS’ pension reform bill did NOT include changes to employee or employer contributions, cost of living adjustments (COLAs), or the three-year final average salary. However, the legislature did include several modifications that SERS requested that have been awaiting legislative action, some for several years. In most cases, these changes modernize SERS’ existing statutes on disability, survivor benefits, and health care.
SERS will be sending a mailing to all members detailing the changes in SERS’ pension reform bill, including the modifications, that affect member benefits. The next issue of News & Views also will include information about these changes.[Hide]
(8/31/12) - Since SERS provided House testimony in support of SB341 on July 25, the House Health and Aging Subcommittee on Retirement and Pensions has held seven hearings on SERS’ pension reform bill. The final subcommittee hearing is scheduled for Wednesday Sept. 5, at 1 p.m. SERS has received letters of support from the Ohio Education Association, Inter-University Council, School Employee Retirees of Ohio, Ohio School Boards Association, and Ohio Association of School Business Officials.[Read More...]
Rep. Kirk Schuring, Chairman of the House Health and Aging Subcommittee on Retirement and Pensions, has indicated that he hopes to pass SERS’ bill out of the subcommittee on Sept. 5 and pass it through the full House Health and Aging Committee later the same day.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, SERS’ bill is tentatively scheduled for a House floor vote. Should it pass the floor vote, it will head to the Senate for concurrence, potentially the same day. Once it passes the Senate, it goes to the governor for his signature.[Hide]
(8/16/12) The sky-is-falling headline of Jon Cassidy’s Aug. 8 story, “School worker health care fund almost out of money” got our attention for all the wrong reasons.
The Watchdog story focuses on the “worst case” funding scenario presented by Pension Trustee Advisors/KMS Actuaries in their report to the Ohio Retirement Study Council in July, and the effect it would have on SERS’ health care funding.
This story perpetuates two myths about Ohio’s public pension systems that are completely untrue: retiree health care in Ohio is a guaranteed benefit, and unfunded pension liabilities in Ohio are ultimately the taxpayers’ responsibility.[Read More...]
Myth 1 – Health Care is a Guaranteed Benefit
Retiree health care in Ohio is a discretionary benefit – it is not guaranteed as indicated in the Watchdog story. SERS is required by law to fully fund pensions before diverting employer contributions to retiree health care. In years with low investment returns, less money goes to funding health care; in years with high investment returns, more money is available for health care.
To prevent the health care fund from being totally depleted in years with low investment returns, SERS implemented a pay-as-you-go health care funding model in 2011. Each year, SERS calculates how much money will be available for health care from these sources: employer contributions, health care surcharge, investment returns on the $325 million health care fund, rebates from health care and prescription drug providers, and federal funding. Based on these calculations, SERS adjusts premiums and coverage on its health care plans to ensure the annual health care budget is balanced and will not dip into the $325 million health care fund.
The PTA/KMS finding that SERS’ “health care funding would rapidly diminish and be eliminated by 2016” under the worst case funding scenario refers to the amount of employer contributions available for health care. The other sources of health care funding mentioned above would continue to be available. Under SERS’ current pay-as-you-go funding system, the health care fund has been designed to remain viable long into the future.
The following sentence in the Watchdog story is completely wrong: “Lawmakers would then have to choose between stiffing retirees on their promised health care, reducing pension benefits, raising the pension contribution rates paid by municipalities, transferring hundreds of millions of dollars from the already depleted SERS Pension fund, or some combination of the above.”
This sentence contains the following inaccuracies:
At SERS, we know that to many of our retirees, a secure retirement means more than a pension alone. Since 1974, SERS has worked to help retirees gain access to better, more affordable health care coverage than what is available to individuals on the open market. SERS’ Board is committed to working within its means to provide retiree health care long into the future. The PTA/KMS report endorses SERS’ health care approach by saying “on balance, we find that the current level of health care benefits is a reasonable objective, and the proposed 30-year plan will maintain health care at these current levels if all assumptions are realized.”
Myth 2 – Public Pension Unfunded Liabilities are Taxpayer Obligations
Despite the conclusion in the PTA/KMS study that “unlike the vast majority of states throughout the country, the Ohio taxpayer has not issued a ‘blank check’ for increased employer pension costs to compensate for unfavorable investment returns and other results,” the author indicates that unfunded pension liabilities in Ohio could drive municipal bankruptcies. Unfunded pension liabilities in Ohio are not the responsibility of taxpayers; they are the responsibility of the pension systems.
As the author states, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is implementing new accounting standards in 2015 that will require pension unfunded liabilities to be reported on government balance sheets. However, these new standards are accounting standards, not funding standards. Even though the pension liabilities will be shown on government balance sheets, the responsibility for paying them down will remain with the pension systems.
Finally, the author states that SERS’ pension fund is “already depleted” and has “$5.8 billion less than it should now have.” This statement shows a fundamental lack of understanding as to how public pension systems work.
Public pension systems in Ohio are required to be able to pay off their pension liabilities within a 30-year funding window. In essence, a pension liability can be compared to a mortgage. While SERS does have $5.8 billion in pension liabilities, that money is not due now, it is due over the next 28 years (SERS implemented a closed amortization period in 2009, meaning that its funding period will be reduced by one year, each year). At present, SERS has about 65% of the funding it needs to pay off its 28-year mortgage. All of the pension promises SERS has made to active members will not come due all at once, but over a period of the next 28 years. The pension reform changes SERS’ Board has requested from the legislature will allow the system to pay down its unfunded liabilities faster over the next 28 years.
The SERS pension fund is stable and the pay-as-you-go health care fund has been designed to last long into the future. SERS celebrates its 75thanniversary in September and it is on solid financial footing to begin the next 75 years.[Hide]
(8/13/12) - SERS experienced a significant technology outage Friday, August 10, from 10:06 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. It affected all our systems including access to our Member and Retiree System and our phones.[Read More...]
SERS staff worked diligently to find the cause and remedy the situation as quickly as possible, and we are up and running again. No data was lost during the outage.
We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.[Hide]
(8/1/2012) - Aetna is warning its members not to respond to a lottery letter that appears to be issued by Aetna through USA Direct Lottery and Sweepstakes.[Read More...]
(7/30/12) - Because it is critical for SERS’ retirees and benefit recipients to receive their payments in a timely and secure manner, SERS will no longer issue paper checks to new benefit recipients beginning Jan. 1, 2013.
All members whose first day of retirement begins on or after Jan. 1, 2013, will be required to receive their benefit payments through direct deposit to a bank or credit union account.
The SERS Board approved this change in business operations at the March 2012 Board meeting, and after its review by the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR), adopted a mandatory direct deposit rule effective Jan. 1, 2013.[Read More...]
Each year, significant staff time and resources are devoted to resolving issues with benefit checks that are lost, delayed in the mail, or stolen, and direct deposit eliminates these problems. This change will allow staff resources to be redirected to other member services operations.
Other benefits of using direct deposit include:
SERS also would like to encourage all current retirees who still receive a paper benefits check each month to consider switching to direct deposit. It’s safe, convenient, and easy to do. Just fill out the Direct Deposit form, which is found on our website, and mail the completed form with a voided check to the address at the top of the form.[Hide]
(7/26/12) - Deputy Director Helen Ninos testified before the House Health and Aging Subcommittee on Retirement and Pensions on Wednesday. SERS was asked to detail changes to its pension reform plan since H.B. 69 was introduced in February 2011 and comment on the recommendations from the recently released Pension Trustee Advisors/KMS Actuaries report released on July 11. Click here to read the full testimony from Wednesday’s meeting.[Read More...]
With the exception of a few technical changes to an existing statutory provision, all of the pension reform changes SERS is seeking are contained in Senate Bill 341, which was passed unanimously in the Senate on May 16.
Rep. Kirk Schuring, Chairman of the House Health and Aging Subcommittee on Retirement and Pensions, has released an aggressive tentative hearing schedule for pension reform changes. He has indicated that he hopes to have pension bills ready for a House vote when the chamber returns in early September. The tentative hearing schedule is as follows: Wed. Aug. 1 at 1 p.m. (Highway Patrol and Ohio Police & Fire testimony); Wed., Aug. 8 at 1 p.m. (State Teachers testimony); Wed., Aug. 15 at 1 p.m. (Senate sponsor testimony); Tue., Aug. 21 at 6 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 22 at 1 p.m.; Tue., Sept. 4 at 6 p.m.; Wed. Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. (proponent, opponent, and interested party testimony); and Wed., Sept. 12 at 1 p.m., and Tue., Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. (if necessary).[Hide]
(7/17/12) - Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies must spend between 80-85% of participant premiums on medical claims and health care improvement expenses. Those companies that do not comply must give rebates to their participants.[Read More...]
Although AultCare PPO, Kaiser Permanente HMO, and Paramount HMO are subject to this requirement, they all have complied for 2011 and are not required to issue rebates. They will be mailing notices to their plan participants with this information.
No other SERS health care coverage plans are affected by this requirement. Medicare Advantage and self-insured plans are exempt.[Hide]
DeWine Announces Ohio Pension Funds Will Seek Lead Plaintiff Status in JPMorgan Chase Shareholder Suit
(7/14/12) – Source: The Office of the Ohio Attorney General
"The filings allege that pension fund managers acting on behalf of Ohio retirees were given false and misleading information by JPMorgan Chase that hid the true nature of the bank's risky trades, causing Ohio teachers, school employees, and public employees to lose tens of millions of hard-earned retirement dollars," said Attorney General DeWine.
The motion alleges that JPMorgan Chase issued false and misleading statements regarding its trading activity, describing risky and speculative trading strategies merely as "hedges" and "risk management" devices. The trading losses by JPMorgan Chase caused losses in the bank's stock value to mount into the billions of dollars. Ohio pension funds lost over $27.5 million as a result of the alleged fraud.
Joining the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio in filing for lead plaintiff status are public pension funds in the states of Oregon and Arkansas, as well as a Swedish national pension fund. The motion is made in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.[Hide]
(7/11/12) - Describing the current Ohio defined benefit pension system structure as “solid” and confirming that the pension reform plans recently passed by the Senate “are a major positive step … that will put each of the five retirement systems in a much more solid financial position than under current law,” the report delivered by Pension Trustee Advisors and KMS Actuaries to the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) clears the way for House debate on pension reform. Even though the legislature is on summer break until September, Speaker Bill Batchelder has indicated that House members could be called back into session this summer to discuss pension reform.[Read More...]
The report, titled Analyzing Retirement Systems’ 30-Year Plans and Alternative Pension Reform Solutions, validates that SERS is in a relatively strong funding position despite the delay in enacting the system’s pension reform proposal. In addition, the report confirms that the Board’s proposed changes were appropriate to address the financial challenges brought on by the Great Recession in 2008, and maintaining the current level of health care benefits is a reasonable objective.
While the report indicated that some pension systems may have to make additional changes beyond those already included in the pension reform plans due to subpar investment returns, the SERS Board is not currently considering more changes. However, if SERS moves outside of the 30-year funding window, additional changes may be necessary. SERS’ FY2012 actuarial analysis will be completed in the December timeframe.
(6/28/12) Today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act does not affect health care coverage currently offered by SERS. Those enrolled in SERS’ health care plans also can expect similar health care coverage in 2013.[Read More...]
SERS’ Health Care Department is monitoring how today’s ruling influences the health care marketplace, and we will keep health care participants informed of any legislation that could affect their coverage.[Hide]
(6/27/12) - The Aetna HMO non-Medicare plan will not be offered by SERS in 2013. SERS notified HMO plan participants of this change by mail in late May.[Read More...]
This decision does not affect the Aetna Medicare Plan (PPO), Aetna Indemnity Plan, and Aetna Managed Care Plan. These Aetna plans will continue to be offered.[Hide]