Saturday, February 23, 2008

Comments re: Contribution rates for HC

From Molly Janczyk, February 23, 2008
Subject: RE: Bill Neville: PLEASE EXPLAIN: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
Thank you. I think people don't understand why the pension systems have different formula rates and caps.
I found what Neville gave to me:
'401 (h) Account Limitations: 401 (h) of the IRS Code permits the system to fund for retiree HC benefits as long as funding of those benefits is subordinate to funding retirement benefits. In order for funding of retiree health benefits to be subordinate, the contribution rate allocated to HC must be limited to 1/3 of the contribution rate allocated to the pension cost. To the extent that historical HC contributions have been less than 1/3 of pension normal cost, a catch up contribution can be made.'
STRS: Pension normal cost rate: 14.82%
1/3 of pension normal cost rate: (divided by 3) 4.94%
4.94% is what STRS could contribute IF it were at 85% funding and 30 yrs or less unfunded liability as decided by all HCA and ORSC. Due to recent losses of market funds, (I believe it is the cause) unfunded liability is again over 30 yrs and we have not met funding ratio in these past 8 yrs either. Therefore, all discretionary benefits are tabled by Board, ORSC, HCA decision. STRS, therefore, continues its 1% contribution to HC.
IF the market were to stabilize for a longer period of time and look long term stable, the unfunded liability stay below 30 yrs and 85% be met for funded ration, then STRS could again contribute more to HC.
When you see OPERS contribute more, remember, THEY DID NOT GO BELOW 30 yrs unfunded liability with nearly double the contributing membership, workers staying till older and closer to Medicare not withdrawing pensions for as long as teachers, and contributing to OPERS longer, Educators can retire at 52, draw on pension and not contribute any further drawing on HC longer while costing money from HC until 65 yrs old.
These random numbers are never as easy as they sound and each system is different in membership and where they stand on unfunded liability, funding ration and long term planning. OPERS planned ahead better than STRS on incrementally increasing HC but has tiers of paying premiums and levels of coverage.
We have to look at ALL variables before saying a system does this but another system does not.
From Dennis Leone, February 23, 2008
Subject: RE: Bill Neville: PLEASE EXPLAIN: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
Many years ago, the STRS Board was able – on its own, without legislative approval -- raise the contribution rates of active teachers and school boards. However, the law had a cap for such contribution rates. It is 10% for active teachers (remember, it used to be 9.3%) and it is 14% for school boards. Ohio law requires the legislature to approve rates ABOVE the caps. This is why HB 315 is necessary. When we were below the caps, the STRS Board could vote on its own to raise the contribution rates. If other pension systems are raising, on their own, their contribution rates, it is because they are below their caps. Hope this helps.
Dennis Leone
From Molly Janczyk, February 23, 2008
Subject: Bill Neville: PLEASE EXPLAIN: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
I believe we are under the same pension oversight laws BUT the different systems have different formulas for contributions. Bill Neville knows about that as he told me . He doesn't respond to emails but I will try. You can call him at STRS. I just went upstairs and he was there and came out to speak to me.
From RH Jones, February 23, 2008
Subject: Re: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
Are we under the same laws? Could a lawyer could find that out for us? How about CORE seeing into just that?
RHJones, a CORE PUFL (Paid Up For Life) Member
From Molly Janczyk, February 22, 2008
Subject: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
Ques: To ALL: How can OPERS raise its contributions as we are under the same pension laws?
Molly Janczyk

Health Net ordered to pay $9 million after canceling cancer patient's policy

From John Curry, February 23, 2008
Subject: This time...they got deservedly "stung!"
Finally, justice is served up for a "weasel practice" that is an ongoing game in the healthcare insurance industry. This time, the justice was delivered to the tune of millions of dollars. I know, there will be some who will try to lesson this message (the settlement) by attempting to divert the blame from the healthcare insurance company to the lawyers who litigated this award. Sure the attorneys will get a healthy chunk of this will the victim! Will this company and other healthcare companies finally clean up their act? (I doubt it) but, they will continue to put disinformation into the news media and opinion pages about how litigation claims are driving up the cost of healthcare...fact is, the cost-factor of litigation settlements amount to only 1%-2% of our outrageous medical inflation suffered in this country. What about the other 98%-99%% Of course, the healthcare insurance companies don't mention that, do they? Bottom line is....if they can't do the time (in this case paying the $$$), then they shouldn't do the crime (canceling Ms. Bates policy). Then again...if we had universal healthcare in our country situation wouldn't have materialized, would it? But then, the fat-cat insurance company CEO's, COO's, and company executives wouldn't have 7 digit salaries, would they? I wonder who donates millions of dollars to the healthcare lobbyists and what they do with these monies...could it be that they wine and dine your friendly local politician? John

Health Net ordered to pay $9 million after canceling cancer patient's policy

(Photo by Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times): Patsy Bates, a breast cancer patient whose medical coverage was canceled by her insurer, was awarded more than $9 million today in a case against Health Net Inc., one of the state's largest for-profit insurers.
The punitive damage award is the first of its kind and has prompted the giant medical insurer to scrap practices that have recently come under fire.
By Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 23, 2008

One of California's largest for-profit insurers stopped a controversial practice of canceling sick policyholders Friday after a judge ordered Health Net Inc. to pay more than $9 million to a breast cancer patient it dropped in the middle of chemotherapy.
The ruling by a private arbitration judge was the first of its kind and the most powerful rebuke to the state's major insurers whose cancellation practices are under fire from the courts, state regulators and elected officials.
Related Stories - Previous insurance rescission coverage
Calling Woodland Hills-based Health Net's actions "egregious," Judge Sam Cianchetti, a retired Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, ruled that the company broke state laws and acted in bad faith.
"Health Net was primarily concerned with and considered its own financial interests and gave little, if any, consideration and concern for the interests of the insured," Cianchetti wrote in a 21-page ruling.
Patsy Bates, a 52-year-old grandmother, was at work at the Gardena hair salon she owns when her lawyer William Shernoff called with the news. Bates said she screamed and thanked the lawyer.
Then, "I thanked God," she said. "I praised the Lord."
Bates called the arbitration judge "an angel . . . a real stand-up kind of judge."
When Health Net dropped her in January 2004, Bates was stuck with more than $129,000 in medical bills and was forced to stop chemotherapy for several months until she found a charity to pay for it.
Health Net Chief Executive Jay Gellert ordered an immediate halt to cancellations and told The Times that the company would be changing its coverage applications and retraining its sales force.
"I felt bad about what happened to her," he said. "I feel bad about the whole situation."
Gellert said he would move quickly to "give people the confidence that they can count on their policy." Specifically, he pledged to stop all cancellations until an external review process could be established to approve all cancellations.
Other insurers were considering changing their own practices. A spokeswoman for WellPoint Inc., which operates Blue Cross of California, the state's largest for-profit insurer, said the company was in favor of such an idea. Blue Shield of California declined to comment.
Until Friday, the companies had uniformly defended cancellations, saying they were necessary to hold down costs by weeding out people who may have failed to disclose pre-existing conditions on applications for coverage. They say cancellations happen infrequently.
The judge's strong denunciation of the way Health Net carried out Bates' cancellation and big money award stunned and pleased regulators and patient advocates.
State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner applauded the judge, saying "health insurers simply cannot hold out the promise of insurance for their consumers and then snatch it away just when people need it most. That is illegal, immoral and will not be tolerated."
Earlier, Health Net had defended its actions, saying it never would have issued Bates a policy in the first place if she had disclosed her true weight and a preexisting heart condition on her application.
Bates said a broker filled out the application while she was styling a client's hair on a busy day in her shop. She said she answered his questions as best she could.
Bates said she already had insurance and wasn't in the market until the broker came by and told her that he thought he could get her a lower monthly premium if she switched to Health Net.
At the arbitration hearing, internal company documents were disclosed showing that Health Net had paid employee bonuses for meeting a cancellation quota and for the amount of money saved.
"It's difficult to imagine a policy more reprehensible than tying bonuses to encourage the rescission of health insurance that keeps the public well and alive," the judge wrote.
The majority of the award -- $8.4 million -- was punitive damages, which are designed to teach the defendant a lesson. Such awards are highly unusual in private arbitration, the forum chosen by insurers and other companies to settle disputes.
Health Net's lawyers had argued that Bates' suffering was minimal, a position that infuriated the judge.
"It's hard to imagine a situation more trying than the one Bates had to endure," Cianchetti wrote. "She had valid health insurance, thinks she's making a change when the rug was pulled from underneath and that occurred at a time when she is diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the leading causes of death for women."
The case was heard by a private judge, rather than a jury, because Health Net required Bates to agree to binding arbitration, a practice common among insurers.
"That's the point," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. "Those kind of agreements that mandate arbitration tend to favor the bigger party or the interest with more economic clout."
The size of the award will require other insurers to take notice, he said.
"It sounds like he was just outraged," Tobias said of the judge. "He is sending a message."
Cindy Ehnes, director of the state Department of Managed Health Care, which oversees health maintenance organizations, said she was "pleased the courts are joining us, along with the public, the media, other regulators and elected officials in demanding the industry clean up its act."
Shernoff, Bates' lawyer, said Gellert's pledge to change showed that a "punitive damage award will do more than anything else to stop the shameful practice of canceling health insurance after people become seriously ill."
Health Net's legal woes are far from over. The company has three other cancellation lawsuits pending in California, including a proposed class action mounted by Shernoff. That case seeks damages on behalf of 1,600 people whose policies were allegedly illegally canceled over the last four years.
Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo on Wednesday sued Health Net over its cancellation practices.
"We intend to vigorously pursue the lawsuit we filed and to pursue our criminal investigation into the company's bonuses scheme, to ensure that Health Net's unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent practices are fully and permanently enjoined, and that restitution is provided to all its past victims," Delgadillo said Friday.
For her part, Bates said she hoped that Health Net followed through on its pledge to change the way it treats sick policyholders so that no one has to go through what she endured.
Bates said she wanted to buy a house with part of the award. She also said she was considering taking a day off work today.
After spending Friday afternoon in her lawyer's Beverly Hills office answering reporters' questions and posing for photographs, Bates planned to go home and make a birthday dinner for her daughter.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Damon to Molly: OPERS wasn't at its statutory minimum then

From Molly Janczyk, February 22, 2008
Subject: RE: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
Thank you, Damon. I do remember that each system has its own formula on which to base contributions to health care so this must mean it is true for contributions from employees/employers as well.
From Damon Asbury, February 22, 2008
Subject: RE: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
OPERS was not at its statutory maximum when it increased the employer contribution level.
From Molly Janczyk, February 22, 2008
Subject: ORSC, OEC, Gov, AG, STRS: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
Ques: To ALL: How can OPERS raise its contributions as we are under the same pension laws? Molly Janczyk

RH Jones research: Change in ORC wording (thanks to Jim Petro) stripped STRS of authority to increase employer contribution to HC fund

RH Jones to John Curry, February 22, 2008
Subject: Re: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table
I noticed that the OPERS "EMPLOYER NOTICE" the Public Safety and Law Enforcement was raised to the level of 17.40% employer contribution for this year 2008 "As provided in the Health Care Preservation Plan". According to the OPERS "rate table", this increase in employer contribution was authorized by the OPERS Board of Trustees!
As far as my research, and that of K. Fluke, PhD, SummitCRTA Legislative Chair and CORE member, in the year 2003 of the Ohio law books available in the Akron Public Library, we found, indeed, that the STRS Bd. had that same power until suddenly the wording of the ORC may have been changed in 2003 by the Atty. Gen., Jim Petro. The wording: "not to exceed 14%" was then added to the ORC? That ORC, we thought, had previously authorized the STRS of Ohio to raise the employer rate with a vote of the STRS Bd. Prior to Petro's inclusion of these words into the ORC, we had passed the info to Damon Asbury that the STRS Bd could, perhaps, raise the employer rate when needed. Asbury then contacted Petro for his input; and that was when Petro may have made this change.
Not being lawyers, but having been trained in school law research in fulfilling the requirements of our Master's Degrees in Education, our findings lacked the input of a trained lawyer. However, as individuals, he and I did not have funds to gain a lawyer's judgment. As PUFL [Paid-Up-For-Life] members, we had to rely on our OEA, OEA-R, OFT, ORTA and even the STRS to check the legalities of this 14% employer cap. None responded. CORE responded, but could not raise enough funding to provide a lawyer. We had to rely on "hard-hearted", and none responsive politicians of that time, to look into it. Of Course, we got nowhere with them either. It seems that is okay to short teachers on health care, perhaps because the majority are women, but both women and men have faced just as much danger to our physical and mental health in the classrooms and school grounds from students, parents and the public as "Public Safety and Law Enforcement" do. Why, then, is their OPERS employer rate higher than ours STRS Ohio? Ironically, we educators were promised orally, and in writing, that we would have health care in retirement. Collectively, retirees were unwilling to go for a class action.
Not having a satisfactory explanation of the shadowy change in the ORC concerning the employer contribution to the STRS, a week, or so, ago I mailed by USPS to the new Atty. Gen., Marc Dann, a request: If he would kindly research it for us retired educators and get for us the real facts. If and when I hear back from him, I will let all of you know of his findings, if any. After all, we did work very, hard to get Dann elected. I do hope that he will make a judgment call in our favor. It is time someone does the right thing in our state. Providing a steady stream of funding for retired teacher health care will surely help move the state forward. An educated citizenry certainly makes for a prosperous state.
I, for one, cannot for long keep paying out well over $12,000 per year for health care. That figure includes co-pays, prescriptions, eye and dental. Is that what future retired career educators have to look forward to in Ohio? And if the Atty. Gen. Dann says Petro was correct. And if HB 315 does not pass as some say it will not. Is it no wonder teachers look for other employment. Thank God, my wife and I did not have severe ear trouble or a hearing problem, yet! Or worse, yet, a catastrophic illness, let alone nursing home care. I reveal these personal facts so that active teachers and all others know what teachers have to look forward to after retirement. To teach is a very demanding and exhausting profession. If you do not believe me; try teaching just for a day and then grading papers that night while planning lessons for the next day. If that does not exhaust you; try teaching all day and then going back for "Open House" to talk to parents about their child's progress, or lack of. Some nights it was 10:00 PM before I left the building. And, I had to face the students early the next morning for another exhausting day.
Teachers earned health care in retirement. It is up to the employers to honor their promises.
RHJones, a retired STRS member
From John Curry, February 21, 2008
Subject: OPERS 2008 contributions rate table

RH Jones: 13th check not a dead issue

From RH Jones, February 21, 2008
Subject: Re: Rx Wholesale Prices Rose 7.82% in 2007....did your income do as well?
This is why the great legislators of the past put the 13th check into the ORC.
The Beacon mentioned this morning that retail prices have risen well over 7%. Therefore, the very fairly distributed 13th check is definitely not a waste of STRS funding. It is a moral obligation of the STRS to keep us up with ever climbing inflation of the dollar. The 13th ck. does just that. It is an important fringe benefit that the long past OEA-R & ORTA fought hard to get for retired teachers. People are WRONG if they think the 13th ck. is a past issue. With oil at over $100 how else can retired teachers stay up? The simple yearly 3% COLA just does not do the job. WE NEED OUR 13th ck. NOW! It should have been issued before last year's end. And that is a fact!
RHJones, a retired STRS member
From John Curry, February 21, 2008
Subject: Rx Wholesale Prices Rose 7.82% in 2007....did your income do as well?
February 21, 2008
By Ed Silverman
Drugmakers increased wholesale prices for the 50 top-selling branded drugs by an average of 7.82 percent last year, after increases of 6.73 percent and 6.22 percent in the previous two years, according to Delta Marketing Dynamics. The most recent increase is almost double the overall US economy’s 4.1 percent annual inflation rate last year, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Some individual drugs had double-digit price increases over three years. Glaxo, for instance, raised the price of its Wellbutrin XL antidepressant by 44.5 percent from 2005 to 2007. Sanofi-Aventis boosted the price of its Ambien sleeping pill by 70.1 percent. Shire hiked the price of its Adderall XR ADD drug by 33.5 percent. And Pfizer increased Lipitor’s price by 16 percent.
The Delta Marketing figures represent the wholesale acquisition cost, which is the manufacturers’ list price for a drug, the Journal notes. This doesn’t reflect underlying rebates and discounts given to wholesalers and large purchasers, such as health insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers. While the wholesale list price isn’t what most customers pay, raising it may help boost the starting point for negotiating a final price, the paper adds.
Prices are going up because - drugmakers are trying to keep revenues afloat by raising prices ahead of patent expirations in hopes that patients will switch to newer meds that have market exclusivity, the paper explains. Then there’s the possibility of changing government regulations, which is a theme in the presidential race. Of course, this could backfire and drug prices right up there with the cost of oil when inflation is discussed, because these price hikes inevitably are reflected in co-payments.
“Companies are under great pressure to deliver revenue, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so as generics displace profitable brands,” Bill Little, Delta Marketing’s president, tells the Journal. “I think drug companies, by and large, are in a survival mode.”

Kathie Bracy: Letter to Heather Rutz of the Lima News

From Kathie Bracy, February 22, 2008
Subject: Re: Teachers retirement system looking for health care funding
Dear Ms. Rutz,
Your recent column in the Lima News ("Teachers retirement system looking for health care funding," 2/19/08) has generated a lot of interest and consternation among retired teachers around the state, mainly because of the uninformed and callous remarks made by Kenneth Clemens, whom you quoted. The bottom line is that teachers have accepted low salaries for years in exchange for a secure retirement that included healthcare, but now the healthcare "rug" is about to be pulled out from under them.
In recent years, healthcare costs have escalated well beyond the means of many retired teachers and beyond the ability of our retirement system, STRS, to continue to fund it indefinitely. At the same time, there have been no increases in the percentage contributed to this fund for the past 23 years from active teachers and school boards. Unless something is done to increase the revenue stream between now and the end of next year, the healthcare fund will begin to dip into the principal and by 2021 we will no longer have healthcare. Then what?
Many retired teachers have gone back to work in order to pay for their healthcare. Many are unable to do so. There are those, too, whose annual pension is less than $20,000, but who still must bear the burden of increased costs and fewer benefits. Think about some older people you care deeply about; would you want them to choose between medical care and food or clothing or heat for their homes? Many retired teachers are doing that now.
Unless a solution is found, many active teachers will work longer than they had planned to, in order to retain their healthcare. Because they are generally the highest paid teachers on the salary scale, this will prove very costly to school boards. It would be much more cost-effective for school boards to increase the percentage of their contribution, in addition to that of the teachers' proportionate increase, to prevent this from happening. As for burdening taxpayers, if no other solution is found, they are going to be burdened a lot more, down the road, when thousands of retired educators start swelling the state's Medicaid rolls. It would be much easier to fix the problem now, because it will become a nightmare later, if it isn't.
Below is a recent rebuttal written to the Akron Beacon Journal in response to a letter written by their school board president, Linda Kersker. It is written by David Parshall, president of CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators), a group that is working to ensure healthcare for present and future retired educators, and explains why the present situation has occurred and why something needs to be done about it soon. I do not have contact information for Dr. Clemens, so I would appreciate it very much if you would forward this letter to him. It may not change his mind, but it should give him some idea what's in store for retired teachers and taxpayers in the future if no solution is found now. I've been retired ten years; I recall receiving one "thirteenth check;" apparently he thinks we are still getting them. He also needs to do his homework on the makeup of the "old board" at STRS. The addition of investment experts to the board came later, as part of the current reform movement started in 2003. The investment experts ARE doing their jobs; some who didn't are no longer there.
I noticed while Dr. Clemens so cavalierly pointed out problems as he perceived them, he also demonstrated no real understanding of them, nor did he offer any possible solutions. I cordially invite him to do so. Thank you in advance for forwarding this to him.
Kathie Bracy
Retired teacher
Columbus, OH

[Note: Dave Parshall's Suggested Rebuttal to the Akron Beacon Journal may be found in a post two down from this one; it is entitled RH Jones: Message for Norton school board re: HC for retired teachers.]
Click here to view article "Teachers retirement system looking for health care funding" in the Lima News.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Columbus Education Association eyes AFL-CIO affiliation

From The CEA Voice
February 25, 2008
Approve the AFL-CIO partnership
By joining the AFL-CIO Labor Solidarity Partnership, the CEA will partner with the strongest labor organization in the country, yet remain an independent organization when it comes to governance and representation. Both the Solidarity Partnership and the AFL-CIO Constitution guarantee our autonomy; no one from the AFL-CIO can interfere in our internal governance. The officers and leadership of your Association will continue to maintain democratic elections, set policies and procedures and negotiate our contracts. As the 4,200 member-strong CEA, we will endorse our own candidates for public office and take positions on education policy initiatives at the state and local level. The officers and leadership of your Association wholeheartedly recommend voting to join the AFL-CIO Labor Solidarity Partnership Agreement.

RH Jones: Message for Norton school board re: HC for retired teachers

From RH Jones, February 21, 2008
Subject: Re: CORE Suggested Rebuttal for The Akron Beacon Journal Letter Published from Linda B
Kersker, President, Akron Board of Education
Can't you see that it will cost Norton more if the older higher paid teachers stay on for several more years each.. Being older, they will take more sick days. Insurance costs Norton more for elderly teachers. No educator in his or her right mind would retire without health care when they have it on the job. For retired teachers, there is no dental, eye, or a compounded COLA either. Most districts promised health care in writing. Have we sued any districts yet?
As to where the Norton schools will get the money, where were you and the other conservative school board members, who dominate the school boards throughout Ohio, when for-profit schools took money away from public schools? End this take-away and Norton will have the money. Demand your OSBA put out the real facts. They have misled you and the others on the Norton Bd. Besides, as I see it, the Norton Bd. votes in a block. There are no independent thinkers. Almost every parent on my street drives their children to school. Perhaps if a study were made as to seat occupancy in school buses, we could do with fewer or smaller buses. That could help the budget.
Further, narrow minded conservatives have forced divestiture onto the backs of our STRS. It takes hundreds of hours of STRS employee time to deal with this burden. Why didn't the conservatives force divestiture on Wall Street stocks? Conservatives have sent all kinds of unfunded mandates, such as NCLB, onto the backs of school districts. Where was the OSBA on this? Do away with false accusations and the making of a scapegoat out of public schools and more federal and state dollars will come pouring in.
There are a lot of retired teachers who live in Norton. Do not expect me to vote for a school levy ever again. The STRS health care funds will soon dry up. I, then, will no longer be able to support levies, as I have in the past. Many retired educators are computer literate and keep up with the real facts. We can not be ignored. We do vote, even in nursing homes.
RHJones, Norton voter
From Cindy Webel, February 21, 2008
Subject: Re: core Suggested Rebuttal for The Akron Beacon Journal Letter Published from Linda B
Kersker, President, Akron Board of Education
Exactly where are the school systems supposed to come up with this extra money? When fully implemented it will cost our district around $250,000 more a year. That is 1 mill in our school system. On average it takes our district 5-7 times to pass an operating levy. I have a daughter that is a teacher and I know the system needs help but until this state gets funding fixed we just can't afford this kind of increase. Again we are asked to make more gold with less straw.
Cindy Webel Norton
[Sent from Bob Jones to Cindy Webel, February 21, 2008]:
Suggested Rebuttal for The Akron Beacon Journal Letter Published from Linda B. Kersker, President, Akron Board of Education
Point by point Rebuttal
1. "Currently, employers contribute 14 percent and employees contribute 10 percent of payroll to pay for retirement benefits."
Rebuttal: These percentages have not changed in 23 years. The STRS Health Care program cannot be sustained without additional revenue. The principal in the healthcare fund will start to be used sometime in 2008.
2. "As members of the Akron school board, we oppose any such increase in costs to school districts."
Rebuttal: If the additional 2.5 percent increase is not phased in over the five year period as called for by HB 315, then most teachers will not be able to retire because they will have no or limited healthcare on their own. There is no retirement without healthcare. Educators will have no choice, but to continue teaching far into their 60's, 70's, or even 80's. School districts across the state will have an aging staff at the top of the salary schedule with increasing healthcare needs. These teachers will have built up a lot of sick leave which they will use at the cost to the district. This will not be good for education, and may cost FAR MORE than the estimated monthly average cost of $40 per teacher. Forget buyouts. Few could afford to accept them no matter how generous they might be. Teachers on average pay more than $1000 a year to supply their classroom. This will have to stop. This all means a budgeting nightmare for school boards, and points out how shortsighted the Akron School Board's thinking is. It is either pay a little now, or pay much more later.
3. "Additional mandated costs, if approved, would not put more teachers in the classroom, buy textbooks, or implement new programs, rather, they would go directly to STRS for retiree benefits."
Rebuttal: The increase will go only to healthcare for retirees. For years educators were promised a great retirement by the state, and school boards, in exchange for low salaries. There is no retirement without healthcare. Few realize that teachers don't automatically qualify for Medicare part A. Many never paid into Social Security while teaching, and those who did, via other employment, don't get a full benefit, which means about $90 a month at best.
4. "Instead of asking school districts, already struggling under many financial constraints, to provide additional funding, STRS should take a responsible look at its own retirement and health-care benefits."
Rebuttal: STRS has been tightening its belt for years. Consider, we cut benefit checks by an average of nearly $3,400 a year (no thirteenth check), cut the subsidy for spouses, and family members' healthcare premiums. Spouses now must pay 100 % of their premiums. Retirees, with the best coverage still pay 48% of their total healthcare bills. Drug and deductibles are annually raised. Hundreds of retirees' pensions are between $20,000 and $29,000 a year. STRS is prohibited by the ORC from raising its 1.9% to the Healthcare Stabilization Fund because it has a much greater than 30 year unfunded liability.
5. "Demographics such as life expectancy and the number of years people are expected to remain in the work force have changed since the current benefit structure was put in place."
Rebuttal: This is exactly why we need a dedicated budget and stable revenue source for educators' healthcare. Teachers are already working longer and living longer. The percentages from active teachers and school boards have not changed in 23 years. Passage of this legislation avoids forcing a lot of seniors onto Medicaid, and a nightmare for the state. HB 315 is the right thing to do.
From CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators)
David K. Parshall, President

HealthNet set goals, bonuses based on policy cancellations

From John Curry, February 21, 2008
Subject: They wouldn't do that, would they?
This same practice was divulged in a recent documentary but....many refused to watch it considering its director. It's not like people haven't been told, is it? Guess they wished to kill the messenger, huh? Well the documentary was_____ . Ok, I'll print the name of the documentary at the end of the article. John
Published on FierceHealthcare
HealthNet set goals, bonuses based on policy cancellations
By admin
Created Nov 9 2007
An investigation by the Los Angeles Times suggests that a California health plan was setting employee goals and paying bonuses partly based on how many individual policyholders they could cancel and how much money was saved by the cancellations. According to documents gathered by the newspaper, Woodland Hills, CA-based Health Net apparently avoided paying $35.5 million in medical expenses from 2000 through 2006 thanks to the cancellation of roughly 1,600 policies. Such results figured into the more than $20,000 for Barbara Fowler, the plan's senior analyst in charge of cancellations. State law forbids insurance companies from tying pay for claims reviewers to claims decisions. However, Health Net argues that since the analyst in question is an underwriter rather than a claims reviewer, the law doesn't apply.
The bonuses were detailed in documents disclosed as part of a lawsuit by Patsy Bates, a California hairdresser whose coverage was rescinded by Health Net during her chemo treatments for breast cancer. The documents outline a scheme under which the plan's senior analysts in charge of rescission reviews had a goal of 15 cancellations a month, and a target of saving multiple millions on care each year.
To learn more about detail about Health Net's pay-for-cancellations practices: - read this Los Angeles Times article
Related Articles:
CA regulators plan limits to health policy cancellations. Report
BC of California fined $1 million for cancellations. Report
CA agency mulls review of policy cancellations. Report
Kaiser forced to reinstate coverage. Report
Blue Cross of California settles plan-cancellation suits. Report
Kaiser pushes for policy cancellation rules. Report
Source URL: Click here
The name of the documentary? "Sicko!" John

Court orders shutdown of whistle blower web site, then grants limited reprieve

Click here: Court Orders Shutdown, Then Grants Limited Reprieve? | Citizen Media Law Project
Court Orders Shutdown, Then Grants Limited Reprieve?
Posted February 18th, 2008 by David Ardia
Legal Threat Prior Restraints Trade Secrets Last Friday, a federal district court judge in San Francisco issued a stunningly broad injunction that brought down Wikileaks, a site that is developing what it describes as an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis."
The case was initiated earlier in the week by Julius Baer Bank and Trust Company, a Cayman Islands banking entity, which along with its Swiss parent company filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order seeking to enjoin Wikileaks from publishing or distributing copies of documents the plaintiffs claim contain "stolen or otherwise wrongfully obtained confidential and protected bank files and records."
On February 15, 2008, the court issued what it captioned as an "Order Granting Permanent Injunction." This order, which appears to be the result of a stipulation between the plaintiffs and Dynadot, Wikileaks' domain name registrar and web host, required that Dynadot immediately disable the entire domain name and account and remove all DNS hosting records.
Later that same day, the judge must have finally read the United States Constitution and then quickly issued an Amended Temporary Restraining Order that drops the requirement that Dynadot disable the entire domain. Among other things, the amended order enjoins the defendants from "displaying, posting, publishing, distributing, or linking to . . . all documents and information originating from [the plaintiffs' banks] which are internal non-public company documents and/or which contains private client or customer bank records." (I should note, however, that the original order is still listed on the court's docket and the amended order does not rescind -- or even mention -- the earlier order.)
As of February 18, 2008, the domain is still down, but the organization issued a press release through one of its mirror sites:
Transparency group Wikileaks forcibly censored at ex-parte Californian hearing -- ordered to print blank pages -- '' name forcibly deleted from Californian domain registrar -- the best justice Cayman Islands money launderers can buy?
When the transparency group Wikileaks was censored in China last year, no-one was too surprised. After all, the Chinese government also censors the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers and New York Based Human Rights Watch. And when Wikileaks published the secret censorship lists of Thailand's military Junta, no-one was too surprised when people in that country had to go to extra lengths to read the site. But on Friday the 15th, February 2008, in the home of the free and the land of the brave, and a constitution which states "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press", the press was shutdown.
The court has scheduled a hearing on the injunction for February 29, 2008. You can follow developments in the case by going to the CMLP's database entry: Julius Baer Bank and Trust v. Wikileaks.
UPDATE: I posted some additional commentary on the case: Making Sense of the Wikileaks Fiasco: Prior Restraints in the Internet Age

More on Wikileaks:
The site itself could still be accessed at its Internet Protocol address ( — the unique number that specifies a Web site’s location on the Internet. Wikileaks also maintained “mirror sites,” or copies usually produced to ensure against failures and this kind of legal action. Some sites were registered in Belgium (, Germany ( and the Christmas Islands ( through domain registrars other than Dynadot, and so were not affected by the injunction. (courtesy of the New York Times -

National Crime Prevention Council: It’s Time To Pay Attention to Warning Signs of School Violence

Press release, February 15, 2008
Arlington, VA — The recent school shooting at Northern Illinois University shows that we need to pay more attention to the warning signs of school violence, says the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). The nonprofit group, best known for its icon McGruff the Crime Dog, says most violent incidents in schools are preceded by warning signs of trouble ahead. The group says it is time to teach our students and faculty how to be more vigilant and recognize those students who are in crisis. The warning signs include:
...• Threats to bring a weapon to school
...• Talk about retaliation or a copycat crime
...• Overhearing or seeing a “hit list” at school or online
...• Troubling essays or other disturbing writing
...• Sudden changes in a student’s behavior or mood swings
...• Students with difficulty controlling anger or handling conflict
...• Students experiencing bullying or other means of peer isolation
NCPC lists ways parents, students, school personnel, law enforcement, and the community can prevent school crime on its website at To schedule an interview with a school safety expert, contact Nicole Nasiatka at 202-261-4123 or
About the National Crime Prevention Council
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) is a private, nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to be the nation’s leader in helping people keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe from crime. NCPC manages public service advertising under the National Citizens’ Crime Prevention Campaign—symbolized by McGruff the Crime Dog® and his “Take A Bite Out Of Crime®” slogan—and acts as secretariat for the Crime Prevention Coalition of America, more than 400 national, federal, state, and local organizations representing thousands of constituents who are committed to preventing crime. NCPC is funded through a variety of government agencies, corporate and private foundations, and donations from private individuals. For more information on crime prevention issues, visit

Mary Ellen Angeletti responds to Lima News article

From Mary Ellen Angeletti, February 21, 2008
Subject: Response to Heather Rutz/Lima News, Kenneth Clemens
I respond to the article written by Heather Rutz in the Lima News titled "Retiree Bonus Draining Coffers". As a retiree of STRS, I know of no bonus received by me or any other retired Ohio teacher. It is true that the State Teachers Retirement System is currently sponsoring HB 315 which, if passed by the Ohio legislature, would provide a dedicated revenue stream for health care for retired teachers. This would be accomplished by increasing the contributions from teachers in schools and universities by 2.5% and by increasing the contributions by school districts by 2.5%.
With HB 315, active educators will be contributing to their own future coverage. These increases would be phased in over a five year period in 0.5% increments. With the full implementation of the bill, retiree health care coverage will be primarily funded by educators through the premiums paid by retirees and the additional 2.5% taken out of each educator's paycheck.
What most people do not know is that active educators attending STRS sponsored conferences were for years promised free health care for themselves and their spouses, then the promise changed to affordable health care for the retiree and spouse, and now that affordable health care has become full cost health care for the spouse and ever more expensive health care for the retiree. This increase is the result of the escalating cost of health care in the U.S. In 2007, we retirees paid 48% of the health care program's cost of $485 million through out premiums, deductibles, copayments, and other out-of-pocket costs.
All of the four other public retirement systems in Ohio provide health care to their retirees but none requires its current retirees to share such a large portion of the cost. Without affordable health care in retirement, teachers will work longer. This translates into higher medical costs and higher wages because the older teachers will be receiving salaries at the top of the salary scale.
Ensuring affordable health care coverage in retirement for Ohio's educators also prevents additional Ohioans from being added to the rolls of the uninsured, which is a growing liability that is impacting all taxpayers. As George Doyle, President of the Lima Allen County Retired Teachers Association, said in his letter to you, there have been no 13th checks for years. My first and last 13th check was sent in 1999.
Mistakes were made in the past at STRS but those Board members were convicted and punished for their misdeeds. As a result, there have been many changes of STRS' policies to assure that these misdeeds are not repeated.
Mr. Clemens questions whether taxpayers should fund health care for retired teachers. He says that it isn't required but he must be reminded that the availability of health care coverage in retirement is an important component of the compensation and benefit package that is used to recruit and retain teachers and would help keep teachers off the rolls of the uninsured in retirement. If the STRS health care program ends (and it will run out by 2021), the liability for Ohio does not go away.
Many retirees and disabled teachers will not be able to afford health care coverage available on the open market, causing more Ohioans to become uninsured. The rolls of the uninsured will be paid by Ohio taxpayers. HB 315 offers an answer. It is an equitable plan that shares the responsibility for health care coverage among retirees, active teachers (who want to prepay health care for their retirement), and employers. For the first time, active teachers will be contributing to their own future health care coverage. We retirees are hopeful that HB 315 receives a hearing soon and will be considered by the Ohio legislature in 2008.
Mary Ellen Angeletti,
An STRS retiree

A pointed response to Lima News article

From John Curry, February 21, 2008
Subject: Lima News blog re Lima News article
My, my! Look what I found in the Lima News blog. Some concerned person wrote a rather agreeable post in the Lima News blog. It looks like the blog master censored out a few words but, by reading between the lines, I believe the well-intended blogger meant "bitches" instead of *****. Any way, I tend to agree with the author 100%! John
[From] concerned45895 New member
E-mail Re: Teachers retirement system looking for health care funding - [49431] The original article was poorly titled. There are no "bonus" checks for STRS retirees and there never were. Since 2001, the issuance of what was called the "13th" check was terminated. This "13th" check was only a small fraction of a regular monthly retirement check.
The good Dr. Clemens, who apparently disdains any of his tax dollars going for healthcare for retired educators, might want to think about a few other public servants who also contribute to the quality of life that he is provided by public servants. I wonder if he ***** about paying taxes for the law enforcement agencies that protect him and his dental office from thefts and burglaries? I wonder if he ***** about the county snowplow driver who clears the path so that he can drive to work? They both are members of a public retirement system that is partially funded through tax dollars. I also wonder how many of his fellow dentists were educated in public schools so that they could go on and ply their trade, thanks to public educators? I also wonder how many educators at Rhodes State College he cares about as they are contributors to STRS and he is on their Board of Trustees....what will he tell them? I have a hunch he won't tell them anything. It is also obvious that Dr. Clemens can read....I wonder if he will thank a public educator for that? Then again, maybe he attended an "upper-crust" private school.
The policeman and the snow plow driver retire in OPERS (Ohio Public Employees Retirement System). They are offered a 80/20 PPO healthcare insurance package for the retiree and his/her spouse for a total of $80 per month premium. The same healthcare insurance package premium for an STRS (non-Medicare age) retiree and spouse is now at $850 PER MONTH or EIGHT AND ONE HALF TIMES the cost of an OPERS coverage! Of course, Dr. Clemens didn't mention that, did he? In fact, a one-hour crown installation in his dentist's office is of greater expense than many STRS retirees see in in two weeks worth of their pension checks.
Yes, there were some "bad apples" on the former STRS board in the early 2000's. Five of them AND the former STRS Executive Director were each convicted of one or more violations of the Ohio Revised Code for violations of Ohio ethics laws. They all accepted gratuities from STRS vendors. They all received criminal sanctions which included fines, probation, and public service. They all resigned in disgrace from the STRS board and the position of Executive Director. In short, the bad apples were purged and reform has been an ongoing process at STRS ever since thanks to Dr. Dennis Leone,John Lazares (now are both on the Board), and a very vigilant STRS retiree who filed an official complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
All of this exposure, conviction, purging, and reform still hasn't affected the affordability of healthcare insurance for STRS retirees, many of whom are facing the decision of whether to eat or to buy medicine due to their high healthcare premiums...and, no....not all of them are on the 88% retirement formula. They retired at the old 66% of their final average salary formula after 30 years in the profession.
Yes, there will be those who will equate public educator retirees' benefits with Social Security benefits... and yes, the STRS retirement checks are larger than Social Security are the policemen's and the snow plow drivers' retirement checks. They, however, weren't required to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get their Masters degree just to be eligible to apply for their jobs, did they? In short, Dr. Clemens got his and the hell with the rest.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

George Doyle: A rebuttal to the Lima News re: 'Retiree Bonus Draining Coffers'

February 20, 2008
Dear Mr. Lederman:
My name is George V. Doyle, and I am the current President of the Lima Allen County Retired Teachers Association. I would like to comment on the article that appeared in the February 20, 2008 issue of The Lima News entitled "Retiree Bonus Draining Coffers."
First of all, let me say that we have not had the 13th check for at least 5 years and the purpose of those checks was to help those who retired at a time when salaries were very low so they could have some extra monies to help with their extra expenses that were not covered by their insurance. This 13th check was based upon a formula worked out which involved how long a teacher had been retired and how much their monthly retirement checks were.
Dr. Clemens referred to some trouble that we had with a previous STRS Board wasting our money. Most of the retirees were trusting and not aware of what was going on until we elected Dr. Dennis Leone who exposed all of the corruption. Since that time, all of those Board Members were prosecuted and punished to the letter of the law, and revisions of policies at STRS have been made to insure that this cannot happen again.
Now as to the comment on taxpayers paying for our insurance. A retiree paid into the fund from his/her salary all the time they were teaching and during that time the active teacher contribution kept rising, while administrative contributions stayed the same. Administration has not contributed one cent more than the 14 percent for the past 20 years, however, the active teacher portion went from 5% to 8% to 10%. The additional 5% increase would come from 2.5% from active teachers and 2.5% from administrations over a five year period. That still brings administration's contribution to only 16.5%.
I feel, as most teachers do, that we have earned our health benefits for the years that we have put in teaching for low wages under difficult conditions and sometimes even hazardous conditions without benefit of a bonus or perks.
Another change that has been made is that as of January 1, 2009, anyone on STRS retirement who works for a company that offers insurance (including rehired teachers and administrators) must opt out of the STRS insurance and go on the company insurance. This was done as a result of so many teachers and administrators retiring in June and going back at the same pay and same job in September, but staying on STRS insurance. It was hoped that this change would discourage school districts from rehiring once an employee retired. Although I feel that it is unfair for those of us who chose to work outside the field of education, I must commend STRS for trying to reduce the double-dipping that is occurring.
In all fairness, I would ask Heather Rutz to contact Laura Ecklar again and get the real facts before writing such a one-sided article. I am surprised that your editor did not ask her if she had all the facts before publishing this article. We retired teachers are really suffering because many of us are not of Medicare age yet and must rely upon this insurance to carry us through until we are of age. Another thing is that many of our older retirees (and we have many over the age of 100) cannot afford proper medical care and must make a decision between medication and food. This should not be in an age when we continue to send billions of dollars overseas and cannot seem to find any money to help our elderly in this country or to properly fund our education system because many states are taking away valuable dollars from public education and giving it to charter schools, who misuse the money and are not required to refund it or account for it either from a financial or academic standpoint.
Thank you for reading this rebuttal. I hope that you will publish this letter, as I am sure you will be hearing from retired teachers on this matter.
George V. Doyle, President
Allen County Retired Teachers Association

RH Jones: In support of active & retired teachers

From RH Jones, February 20, 2008
To all:
This retired teacher supports teachers' right to strike. Presently, Senate Bill 264, Sen. John Carey (GOP) would take that right away.
In the first place, honorable Ohio representatives of both political parties in our past created the Ohio Revised Code to allow strikes. Why, all of a sudden does this need to change? Some says it is for the safety of children. Do they not realize that school districts' deciding on keeping schools open with unlawfully qualified replacements is the problem, not the teachers walking the picket line? And thanks to these knowledgeable Ohio representatives and senators of the past, striking teachers were no longer suffering the indignity of being thrown in jail. How sad for children and parents to see or read about teachers being hauled off to jail. This, perhaps, is the main reason the right to strike was passed into law, in the first place. Even with the right to strike as law, very few districts ever have experienced strikes. However, teachers may need that power when the occasional unreasonable Local School Board, State Governor or U.S. President acts unreasonably.
Every reasonable person concludes that teachers' main concerns are the children. Otherwise, why would they, as college graduates, chose teaching as a profession? It certainly would not be for the high pay or underfunded health care in their retirement. Happy teachers, secure their jobs, and improved environmental situations, among other positive criteria, can be the result of striking. This is good for children, as well for their teachers and, consequently, the public. Anyway, the number of days children attend in a school year does not change; strike days are always made up. Children do come first.
In the near future, it may become necessary for Ohio to have to undergo a statewide strike due to some uninformed state politicians refusing to consider that, or to understand that, teacher health care in retirement saves school districts money. The money saving legislation of HB 315 has been proven, and mentioned as fact, by my Ohio State Teachers Retirement Systems staff and many other informed citizens, many times, since House Bill 315 was introduced. Without HB 315’s passage, teachers at the top of the salary scale will stay employed on the job longer. This results in less money to buy children’s books, newer buildings and other everyday needs such as pollution-free buses and school buildings – it has been reported lately that most children are taught in older. unsafe, unhealthy and just worn out old buildings. Of course, if teachers have the lawful power to strike for better health care in retirement, and other improvements, better teachers are attracted to teach our children here in Ohio.
High growth in business in our state will not take place unless there is a highly educated work force in place. The right for teachers to strike helps to insure the quality education of our children. Why is that so hard for some to comprehend as fact? Just having collective bargaining only, as outlined in SB 264, puts our state further into regression. And defeat of HB 315 (the employer increase for retired educator health care) does not help either. Common forward movement should not be uncommon. That is my thinking.
RHJones, retired STRS member

Lima News misleading re: 13th check/bonuses for teacher

From John Curry, February 20, 2008
Subject: What a MISLEADING title for this STRS article!
Below is today's Lima News (print edition-Section B page 1) article re. STRS and HB 315. Get a load of the title! What bonus? I retired with 30 years service in May of 2000 and have never seen a 13th check or "bonus" as referred to in this highly misleading title......neither have over 116,000 STRS retirees! "Accuracy in journalism" is sure missing in this instance! I do note that there is a venue to comment on this article at the end of the to comment? John Curry Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE)
Teachers retirement system looking for health care funding
Lima News, Feb. 19th, 2008
By Heather Rutz
LIMA — A group managing benefits for Ohio’s retired teachers wants increased contributions from teachers and employers to shore up the finances of its health care system.
The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio is pushing a House bill that would increase contributions from public teachers, school districts and public universities by 2.5 percent each, creating a dedicated revenue stream for health care for retired teachers.
Local opponent to the action, Kenneth Clemens, a member of the Rhodes State board of trustees, said taxpayers shouldn’t be funding health care for retired teachers and the new money is needed now because STRS squandered other money in past years.
STRS has provided health care for its retirees since the 1970s. None of the five public retirement systems in Ohio is required to provide health care, but they all do.
“As we look forward with health care costs as they are, looking at the amount of money in the fund, and knowing how much we need to pay out of that fund, what we know and what our actuaries have told us is that the fund is going to run out of money,” said Laura Ecklar, STRS spokeswoman.
Through good times, when the pension fund was doing well, STRS acted irresponsibly, Clemens said, by providing retirees essentially a 13th benefit check each year.
“They had so much money, they thought, they gave a 13th check every year, which was not required, and they purchased health insurance for their members, which is not required,” Clemens said. “Seven members of the board are teachers or retired teachers and three are financial experts who didn’t do their jobs; they shouldn’t have let them do this stuff.”
State law allows pension systems to distribute extra investment returns. The 13th check program ended five years ago, Ecklar said. The retirement board has made many changes to the program to try to make it solvent, she said.
“We spend $1.3 million a day on health care here,” Ecklar said. “No amount of cost-cutting can come up with that. Most public agencies have set aside zero toward their liability and we have.”
Currently, pensions are funded with 10 percent of teachers’ pay and a 14 percent contribution from employers. The health care fund has three sources of income: 1 percent of the 14 percent, premiums and investment earnings on the fund, which stands at about $4 billion. Retired teachers, through premiums and out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays, pay about 48 percent of the program’s cost.
About 116,000 retired and disabled teachers are enrolled in the program; STRS has about 450,000 total active, inactive and retired members.
The additional 5 percent would be phased in over five years, giving school districts time to plan, Ecklar said. The additional money would fully fund the program.
“We believe it’s a viable solution,” she said. “We are well aware of school funding challenges in this state and we appreciate the challenges particularly K-12 districts face.”
STRS tries to sell the idea by reminding districts that teachers are staying in the classroom longer, partly because of health insurance worries, and that is adding to districts’ own salary and health care costs for aging teachers.
Clemens asks a fundamental question: Should taxpayers fund health care for retired teacher?
“Where does the public schools get their money? Where does the money come from? Real estate tax,” Clemens said. “What they’re saying is, ‘We screwed up, we made errors in judgment and now we want a tax on the public to maintain a program that’s not a requirement.’”
Ecklar said if the STRS program ends, the liability doesn’t go away.
“It just means disabled teachers aren’t able to get health care, teachers younger than 65 are not able to get health care,” she said. “As you add to the rolls of the uninsured, taxpayers pay for that too, with Medicaid, social services, charities, the emergency room. We all pay for that.”
House Bill 315 has been introduced and in committee, but no hearings have been held.

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