Retirees Association

OCHER Report of September 20

Paul Wolfe

Submitted by Paul Wolfe, WSURA board representative to the Ohio Council of Higher Education Retirees (OCHER)

Dick Hill has resigned from the council due to ill health.  He has been a crucial council member with his consistently distilled and relevant reports on STRS Board Meetings.  The council voted enthusiastically to add him to the OCHER Hall of Fame.  A volunteer to take over Dick’s duties is solicited.

Marla Bump, STRS legislative specialist, reports that most issues are dormant until after the election and the new legislative term. STRS is strongly inclined to keep health care benefits for STRS retirees.  There is a lawsuit filed by some higher education employees who are in the Alternate Retirement Plan.  They want to eliminate the mitigation rate, which puts part of the university contribution into STRS.  This will probably become a class action suit and will take years to resolve.

Medicare charge increases and Social Security cost-of-living changes are having an unfair effect on some and are being discussed.

John Cavanaugh, Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA) discussed trouble with the new POP5 organization recruiting members but confusing them that they were paying ORTA dues.  He wanted council members to be aware of the distinction and to make it clear to any confused members.

Greg Nickell, STRS Health Care:  STRS has reduced the assumed rate of return on investments (although it may need reduced further) in projecting the life of the health care fund.  They did a survey of members to determine their tolerance to cost increases and benefit cuts to extend the fund’s life.  The clearest response was that the members want to have a wide range of health care providers covered. Reduced benefits and increase costs were acceptable to extend the fund’s life.  A major change to reduce the costs for 2017 is to have in-network retail pharmacies and out-of-network retail pharmacies.  There would be an additional copay of $10 with out-of-network retail pharmacies.  CVS AND WALGREEN WILL BE OUT-OF-NETWORK.  Most grocery chains, such as Kroger and Meijer, will be in-network. 

The Advocacy Committee of OCHER presented a list of concerns to be monitored and acted on, if necessary, during the coming year.  The council adopted this list.  A summary of the list follows.

  • Monitor attempts to replace defined benefit plans with defined contribution plans for STRS and OPERS.
  • Monitor recurring efforts to move STRS and OPERS under mandatory Social Security.
  • Monitor federal requirements for retirement plan brokers to have fiduciary responsibilities.
  • Monitor congressional effort to have annuities instead of defined benefit plans.
  • Monitor PEPTA proposal to add restrictions on state retirement plans.
  • Monitor Ohio Resolution 6 to place political restrictions on retirement system investments.
  • Monitor the growing use of adjunct faculty and contract employees.