Saturday, December 16, 2006

HB700 Appears Dead for This Session

From ORTA, December 15, 2006
Today, December 15, 2006, STRS Ohio has announced that it was advised by Senate President Bill Harris' office that HB 700 will not be passed by the General Assembly before this session adjourns.
STRS Ohio was one of the parties who provided testimony on this bill on Dec. 14, urging the Legislature to not rush this bill through. For further information concerning this legislation, go to

$60 would buy 15 prescriptions for retirees at Wally World

From June Hughes, December 16, 2006
Subject: Re: Judi to Molly
You bet it would. I went to Target this afternoon and asked about one of my brand prescriptions. I could hardly believe they are only $7 higher ($107) than our prescription plan. If they don't increase their price they'll be cheaper than the $125. Maybe we all need to check with other pharmacies for price. My Dr and now a pharmacist has said Caremark was one of the worst to deal with that they've experienced. Hmmmmmm. The board needs to know that too - should it mean anything to them.
On Dec 16, 2006, at 6:15 PM, John Curry wrote:
Hummm..... $60 would buy 15 prescriptions for retirees at Wally World, wouldn't it?
From Judi Peaspanen, December 16, 2006
Subject: Expenses
Dennis, You are so right! This is not entertainment! It should be oversight of the retirement benefits and system. If they want elegant entertainment get another job, not our money we worked for. The Board members took on this responsibility as a volunteer to give their time not for travel and entertainment perks! If they don't want to do that, they should resign. I have never paid for a $60.00 dinner at a restaurant for one person nor could I afford to do so!

Conversation on Board travel expenses: Kimmel, Janczyk, Hughes, Leone, Peaspanen

From Jim Kimmel, December 16, 2006
Subject: Re: Additional Thoughts on Travel Expenses
I have worked for the University of Cincinnati where I had to travel (admissions work),The USAF (lots of travel), the Census Bureau, and two major school districts. They had definite standards concerning lodging and expenses. The only time I ever "used" the situation was when I was in the USAF. They gave me an airline ticket at discharge for a trip from Lowrey AFB in Denver to Cincinnati. I cashed in the ticket and took a Greyhound Bus to Cincy. I had enough money left to buy a 1952 Dodge with Fluid Drive which had been a taxi and was yellow on top and green on the bottom. But it never cost the USAF any more than they had allocated. The Dodge cost me $75.00 in 1964 ! I used it to go around looking for a teaching job!
These STRS characters are living in a dream world because if most people had seen how their peers were indicted for impropriety and ethics violations they would straighten up and fly right. But these people -- someone has played on their greed and egos so much it is hard to believe. Or maybe they just are not very smart!!
Jim Kimmel
From Molly Janczyk, December 16, 2006
Subject: Re: Additional Thoughts on Travel Expenses
You know, Board Members, THIS is what membership feels about you and every time you ask for more or spend needlessly, you are adding painful reminders of our state of affairs. People are suffering and severely strapped unable to pay for meds and treatments while you sit at Lindy's eating enough to pay for 2 RX's they may not be able to. Some of you have just been in the entitled arena far too long to remember less fortunate times or needy ones among us who wonder why you don't remember them at such times. BUT THAT is the stuff LEONE AND LAZARES ARE SO APPRECIATED AND BELOVED FOR AND WHAT YOU ARE UWILLING TO ACKOWLEDGE!
The difference between them and you is they would feel far too guilty eating extravagantly when others suffer.
From June Hughes, December 16, 2006
Subject: Re: Additional Thoughts on Travel Expenses
Even $20 is too much! They aren't royalty even though they might think they are!!!!!! The last time I ate that expensive meal was for my birthday and it was all different kinds of crab, including King Crab! What is the matter with these people? They need to be put on an allowance and that's it!!! June On Dec 16, 2006, at 1:22 PM, molly janczyk wrote:
When lunch and breakfast are provided, $60 is extravagant for dinner. If one HAD to purchase breakfast , lunch and dinner, it would be understandable for $40-50 daily. But, bagels, juice and coffee are always available , I am sure for breakfast and lunch provided on us already. So $20-25 for dinner is more than adequate. We do NOT wish to provide for appetizers, soups , drinks, desserts. Dinner. Most moderate dinners are from $10-15 so that includes tax and tip at most mid range restaurants. I eat at Brio's at Easton where many dinners are around $10-12 and are enough to fill anyone. Lindy's is upscale and I have been there many times for special occasions. A Board Meeting is NOT a special occasion and it is pricey there though one could eat for less than did Ramser.
From Dennis Leone, December 16, 2006
Subject: Additional Thoughts on Travel Expenses
Very well stated, Molly, on all points. You have summarized my feelings precisely. All of this should be common sense stuff. Since, for example, Board policy sets a total limit of $60 per day for Board member meal reimbursements, this means, translated literally, that I could have stopped at Lindey's after the Board meeting ended Thursday and spent $60 on a dinner. Since I passed on breakfast and since STRS gave me pizza during lunch on Thursday, I still had $60 to "spend". This has to change, as does the ability for Board members to decide, on their own, if they wish to spend the night in Columbus after Board meetings end, because they have "business" to take of the next day.
Board policy also permits Board members, for example -- if they attend a meeting in Orlando that ends on Friday -- to stay over (courtesy of STRS) on both Friday night AND Saturday night. I think I can accept Friday
(if a late afternoon flight is not available) but I simply cannot accept Saturday night for any reason.
Conni Ramser's exact words Thursday when I questioned why STRS bought dinner for her and Debbie Scott at Lindey's, were: " I have never been to Lindey's in my life." I have proof to show otherwise and will publicly ask her a second time at the next STRS Board meeting. I wonder if McGreevey, Hollow, Leibensperger, etc., will publish her comment from Thursday, and the truth when it comes out? And why haven't we seen anything in OEA publications about STRS money spent on credit cards, home fax machines, and personal long distance phone calls for board members? I wonder if we'd seen anything written by OEA if it turned out that I was the only Board member with such expenses. Hmmmm. Maybe the difference is that the names are Ramser, Billirakis, Chapman, Flannagan, and Puckett. These 5 would be dead ducks if they were members of school boards, and teacher unions would be the first to complain about them.
Dennis Leone
From Molly Janczyk, December 16, 2006
Subject: Allowances for expenses: computers
Separating time for STRS business vs. personal as some want to claim that. I use this computer 90% for STRS business. So what. If they have a computer and use it for some STRS business, write it off. It is beyond cheap to try to claim such a small portion of it.
OR again, give a universal allowance of 3-4 days per month charge. If someone uses it more or less , their choice and pay for it.
Give allowance ck for moderate hotels/motels. If someone wants better, pay for it. Why would you allow one Red Roof Inn and one Hyatt?
Allow $80 per night with AAA discount or some discount and then with tax, it will be about $80 per night. Not worst/not best. Choose hotels with internet service provided and parking.
This is a service responsibility, not a luxury for yourselves.
Mooney said no calls were even being allowed for stays away anymore with OFT. People had to use their personal cells and pay for them. Most have free long distance in plans. Mooney said this stuff just looks bad and a cooling off period is needed and standards set. We talked of allowances. No one should get more than another. With allowances, all get same and if choose better restaurants and hotels, they can use the allowance and pay for addt'l.
This situation needs standards vs. such loose parameters decided by the individual. STRS is debating this stuff when needy retirees are suffering. Stop thinking about yourselves and all you think you do and think only of your duty to retirees . Put that extra money for Lindy's into a needy retiree fund or find a needy retiree and pay for some RX's. Give me a break. It sounds to us like spoiled children fighting for perks and not wanting to do the work to oversee contracts using legalese to attempt to offset members. It is beyond comprehension that any board member thinks not looking over a document before signing it is stepping on toes or blocking contracts. AS IF! It is your job to look over documents to see if staff has included anything not known by you as our representatives and we couldn't care less if some get offended. If they do, then something is wrong with the document. Otherwise, they are happy to freely show all work and contracts. Let them negotiate. YOU read it before approving. WHAT would YOU ever sign without looking it over for yourselves. WHY do you NOT get that you are there repping US in that same regard. Pretend you are US every day you SERVE US and never, ever, do less than that.
Use books for reference but we are not so easily duped this time around. We trusted and now we are hurt forever. We will never recover. We fight for younger educators and hope for a bit of relief for ourselves. Use commom sense in protecting membership.
EVER HEAR TOM MOONEY in your conscience: NEVER SIGN DOCUMENTS WITHOUT READING IT! NEVER TRUST WHAT IS IN IT! OF COURSE STRS AND ATTORNEYS WILL TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO FEEL AND KNOW! THINK OF THE RIGHT THING AND IF YOU ARE NOT SURE: QUES: QUES: QUES: MULTIPLE SOURCES AND BE SURE TO DO AS HE PLANNED MONTHLY! Speak with each other and hear every point BEFORE coming to the table only thinking your way or a slanted way. Think membership only! Never sign or approve anything unless you are fully prepared by speaking with all to gain insight into reasoning and ask yourself: WHAT WOULD MEBERSHIP WANT AND WHAT IS PRUDENT FOR MEMBERS!
How can you be so wasteful to want personal laptops purchased for you when it is so unnecessary and all don't agree. You have paper and pencils to jot notes. You can use your own computers to do research. You pay for your computers and line charges regardless. Using it for STRS here and there costs you nothing more. You can copy at schools and STRS for free and receive emailed info free. IT IS NOT LIKE ANY OF YOU BEYOND LAZARES AND LEONE EVER USE COMPUTERS TO COMMUNICATE WITH US AND IF YOU HAVE EVER: IT IS RARE!
THEY COMMUNICATE WITH US ALL THE TIME AND ASK FOR NOTHING FOR IT VIEWING IT AS PART OF THE TERRITORY! That board sure could benefit from lightening the load on it by a lot! We'd get further and get a heck of a lot more done.
What a board it could have been in a perfect world with Lazares, Leone and Mooney on it. It never would have happened but the next best thing was beginning with open communication among them and moving forward. HE said it NEVER should have taken so long to get NO CONTRACT: NO VOTE accomplished.
Mooney said all the time: I don't understand the problem anyone has talking with Dennis on that board. I have absolutely no problem and he agreed with Dennis and John on all points I discussed with him and I think we talked about all of them except he did see where some limited travel for conferences was acceptable if nearer like conferences were not available on pension systems offered in sites not Ohio. Never run around. Just asked and answered ques. and you could always come to decisions with him. I found the 3 of them quite the same in terms of how they would communicate with a person. Direct, succint and with solutions in mind. No endless putting off chatter talking around stuff like Ramser did with Leone on Thurs. 'Well, do you mean this type of overnight stay or that type of overnight stay or ...........'
Leone means NO UNNECESSARY OVERNIGHT STAYS! It's simple. We all get it and we aren't board members in this silly, silly, endless attempt to undermine. It just makes you look foolish to ask questions like that.
Let's see: I have a 4 hour drive so I can prob. feel fine about staying the night before a meeting in a moderate lodging with my allowance reimbursement. If I want to treat myself, I will use my allotment toward a higher priced place. I will need dinner and use my allowance either to pay or pay towards a higher end place if I choose to treat myself to one on the nicest restaurants in Cols., Lindy's. ((Great food and ambiance)).
OR give all a ck for $100 for prenight stays for lodging and food. If you choose not to use it, let it pay for your time coming here or give it to a needy retiree for a couple of RX's they deny themselves. I am sure in our communities, we can find needy retirees easily enough. Each board member gives a determined:
- cents per mile - $80 AAA room or towards a room of your choice -food allowance: $25 per day ($25 dinner/modest lunch is in Exec Session/breakfast: bagels, juice, coffee at STRS).
From Judi Peaspanen, December 15, 2006
Subject: Re: computers
Why can't the Board members use their own computers for STRS business, as I'm sure they all have them. their own public library in their town would have one available or the school each taught at could allow them to use them as all educators would benefit from their use. Most teachers if not all have their own home computers.

Dayton Daily News Editorial: The statehouse is awash with slime as Republican lawmakers and their special-interest patrons grab for what they can get.

Our View: Republicans exit, still out of control

By Dayton Daily News

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Seasoned observers might call what's occurring in Columbus during the "lame duck" legislative session business as usual. The less cynical should see it for what it is: a corruption of the law-making process.

The statehouse is awash with slime as Republican lawmakers and their special-interest patrons grab for what they can get.

GOP lawmakers are acting quickly before a Democratic governor takes office — and while the public is preoccupied with holiday preparations.

Preposterous legislative proposals have been planted in seemingly innocuous bills, and then put on the fast track to becoming law. Decisions are happening so quickly that amended legislation is not made widely available until everything is over. Doing otherwise would defeat the goal — which is deception.

This week legislative amendments were introduced during evening hours and voted on immediately. That means the Legislative Service Commission — the Legislature's nonpartisan technical staff —didn't have time to prepare reports that offer lawmakers the straight dope on a bill's contents.

Many lawmakers might take more care — and be less brazen — if they thought the public really knew how cavalier and Machiavellian they were behaving. But part of the hustle is to keep voters in the dark.


Consumers lose: Senate Bill 117 was introduced to deal with a narrow, technical question of evidence in criminal cases. It passed the Senate in October 2005, and there it sat until Wednesday evening, when Rep. Bill Coley, R-West Chester Twp., and Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, introduced an amendment that would keep injured consumers out of court, or limit the damages they can recover, in cases involving defective products and consumer fraud.

The amendment, among other things, would undermine the celebrated anti-predatory mortgage lending bill that passed this spring. It would place a $5,000 cap on "non-economic" damages consumers could recover — for such things as the personal trauma and inconvenience they suffer — even if a lender's or mortgage broker's misconduct results in the consumer losing his or her home.

The amended bill was put before the House committee Wednesday, hustled to the floor for a vote Thursday and then immediately brought to the Senate for concurrence — passing each time along party lines.

Behind closed doors: The capital budget bill (House Bill 699) is 696 pages long and doles out nearly $1.8 billion for hundreds of projects. It wasn't introduced until Dec. 5. Buried amid all the pork, there's a provision that would exempt partisan caucuses of House committees from Ohio's open-meetings law. That means the majority political caucus at the committee level could cut deals and conduct public business behind closed doors — turning the committee hearings into choreographed shams.

Fewer workers eligible: On Nov. 7, Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed Issue 2, a constitutional amendment that boosts the state's minimum wage. Shortly thereafter, Rep. Seitz introduced House Bill 690 that attempts to limit the definition of workers who are eligible for a wage increase and minimizes employers' duty to keep records — all of which quickly passed in committee on a party-line vote.

On Dec. 5, Sen. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, advanced these restrictions and more in Senate Bill 401. He also would hamstring employees trying to enforce their rights to the minimum wage by limiting the ability of labor organizations to pursue lawsuits on behalf of members — instead requiring every abused employee to bring a separate case.

Thing don't end there.

GOP lawmakers are using the lame-duck session to try and strip Gov.-elect Ted Strickland of his ability to set law enforcement rules. There also are last-minute amendments to the public-records law that would allow journalists to review records of the suspension or revocation of a concealed weapon permit — but forbid them from copying the name or address of the permit holder who's been punished.

Gov. Bob Taft needs to stand up on his way out of office, and keep these and as yet undetected deceptions from becoming Ohio law.

Meanwhile, lawmakers shouldn't assume their misdeeds will be forgotten. What they're doing now is a part of their public record, and voters will be reminded — even if that's down the road.

Shirlee Zerkel and Greg Nickell: More discussion

From Shirlee Zerkel, December 15, 2006
Subject: Fwd: Questions about preventive services in Basic Plan for 2007
This is the answer I received from Mr. Nickell last night. Our suggestions are always nice in the discussion stage but apparently to staff not workable. I do not buy the excuse of the doctor's billing methods being the reason that our suggestion would not work. Doctors are ordered by the insurance companies as to how to bill or code items -- the example is right in Mr. Nickell's email where he speaks of the doctor having to use the correct code for it to be paid as preventive.
Shirlee Zerkel
Dear Ms. Zerkel:
I appreciate your suggestion and understand it makes sense at the discussion level. However, when it comes to processing claims we must remember that all Aetna and Medical Mutual have to determine how a claim adjudicates is what is submitted on the claim. My experience from the past (I was a senior executive responsible for health claims operations at a Third Party Administrator (TPA) for 14 years) suggests caution when looking at asking physicians to alter their billing practices. When a request is outside the standard coding guidelines the results most likely will be very inconsistent leading to frustration from all parties.
Regarding your second question, the 100% preventive service coverage would extend to the related charges billed for facility and anesthetist services providing the claims are submitted by a network provider with a preventive diagnosis and/or procedure code.
Thank you for letting me know your concerns.
Gregory R Nickell
Director, Health Care Services

Comments from Molly on dinner at Lindey's and laptops

From Molly Janczyk, December 15, 2006
Subject: Additional Info. from yesterday's STRS & CORE meetings
1. Read with interest 2 issues below: Ramser should not be able to choose amount for dinner. A simple resolution is what other companies do: Give an allotment for a moderate dinner: for ex $25 to each board member who needs to eat dinner at our expense. If they choose Lindey's, fine. They pay the difference. If they choose McDonalds, fine. But all get paid ONE amount period! Conni seems to need lessons in truth speaking. (My opinion. m.j.).
2. Laptops: laptops available to use at STRS when meeting there and print info at STRS. NOT TO BE CHECKED OUT OF THE BUILDING OR GIVEN TO BOARD MEMBERS. This way it is totally controlled and each time a laptop is used, it is signed out for the duration of the meeting only! No overnight use. There is no reason to buy laptops and try to decipher hours used on STRS business. Tape recorders can be used for long distance conferences which are few and hopefully far between. Videos can be purchased with STRS funds for inservicing the entire board when they return. Pencils and paper work well too. Remember, note taking?

Notes from Mary Ellen Angeletti: Connie's $60.00 bill at Lindey's; notes on December Board meeting

Mary Ellen Angeletti to Molly Janczyk, December 15, 2006
Subject: Fwd: Additional Info. from yesterday's STRS & CORE meetings
I forgot to mention the go around between Dennis and Conni regarding expenses. In discussing the travel policy item by item, Conni innocently referred to one group of expenses and Dr. Leone said that since she was the one who brought it up, he would like to ask her why it was necessary for her to claim a $60.00 dinner at Lindey's. She shot back that she never had eaten at Lindey's whereas Leone reminded her that she should then talk to Dr. Asbury since it was on Asbury's list of expenses.
On Dec 15, 2006, at 5:06 PM, Mary Ellen Angeletti wrote:
I really do not have much to add as the STRS Email News had most of the STRS meeting highlights. To it, I would add that when the list of projected expenses was discussed, Dr. Leone challenged the necessity of spending $100,000 for an appointed counsel to oversee Health Care. He was told that the other pension system,OPERS, would also share this counsel. Regarding the upcoming attendance of 5 STRS Board members to some sort of a training comference, Dr. Leone commented that he was very glad that it was being held in Columbus and because of the choice of that location, it should be Hayden, Meuser, Puckett, & Johnson who attend it. He said that Lazares, Leone, Chapman, Cervantes, and Ramser should NOT be attending since they live out of town and would cost the STRS system more money for these 5 to go. However, this suggestion was not even considered and the vote allowed the preferred original list to attend. (I didn't hear who but guess it is definitely Ramser & Chapman)
Regarding the Revisions to the Travel Policy which Dr. Leone suggested last month, it was decided that Dr. Leone and Laura Ecklar would get together to formulate the policy with more exactness. The Bd. will then revisit this issue at the Jan. STRS meeting.
The issue of the STRS Bd. members having laptops at their homes, Dr. Leone was very much against this idea as was John Lazares. Jeff Chapman and Conni Ramser were very much in favor of this idea. Due to their concerns and the lack of consensus, this issue will be considered again at the Feb. Retreat. However, the Informational Technology Dept. at STRS was given the go ahead to prepare a comparison of the expense of furnishing the laptops to each Bd. member with the expense of providing paper memos, contracts, etc. as it is currently being done. I think this Dept. will share this info. at the Retreat also.
Public Speaks: Three speakers ONLY.
1. Lloyd Knudsen - Made a formal request (motion) for STRS to provide telecasting of the STRS Board meetings so that teachers (retired & active) could see firsthand what transpires at these monthly meetings.
2. Jim Reed - Presented a beautiful eulogy praising deceased OFT leader, Tom Mooney. It was eloquent and so very timely, and we all were moved and appreciative of his words. He reiterated how Tom had believed that the answer to STRS problems rested in bringing together all of the interested parties and reaching consensus on each issue. Mr. Mooney shared these same thoughts with CORE when he spoke to our group. Mr. Mooney was in the process of setting up monthly meetings with Dr. Leone, John Lazares, Dave Parshall, and Mary Ellen Angeletti the Saturday before his untimely death on Sunday. What an enormous loss this was for all of us!
3. Dave Parshall - Thanked Dr. Asbury for providing the CORE group with the promised information regarding the STRS Bd. members' credit card issue. Paid respects to the passing of Tom Mooney. Wished all happy holidays.
I have made corrections to Glenna's minutes and she is still in the process of getting Trustee input so I will not report on the CORE meeting. She will cover that.

Friday, December 15, 2006

RH Jones, Dennis Leone: Sub. HB 71 and some disturbing financial projections at STRS

From Dennis Leone, December 13, 2006
Subject: Re: Sub HB 71 (J. Stewart) may hurt STRS military veterans members
Thank you Bob.........and by the way, you are 100% correct about how Cleveland area school districts that are now paying a portion of the actives' 10% is actually hurting STRS. I had not thought about it until you wrote it. I will bring it up on Thursday at the STRS Board meeting. It represents another reason why the STRS staff projection of teacher increases averaging 4.5% has been way off. All financial projections at STRS, Bob, for the past 15 years has been based on the assumption that actives' payroll will grow 4.5% -- which it did up until 2002. The past 3 years, however, the state average has been 2.7%. This is due basically to 5 factors:
1. Few public school teachers overall due to cuts to hiring freezes.
2. Smaller raises.
3. Decline in public school students, due primarily to the creation of 305 charter schools, which serve 72,000 pupils.
4. Charter school teachers being paid far less..
5. Districts offering partial payment of the actives' STRS 10% in lieu of raises.
Thanks again.
Dennis Leone
From RH Jones, December 13, 2006
Sub HB 71 (J. Stewart) may hurt STRS military veterans members

To all:
In my opinion , this bill is a legislative effort to "up-date" veterans purchasing of military time credit to add to their retirement bases for computation of our STRS retirement benefits. In a time of war, I applaud the effort in this bill to include service credit for National Guard Duty. However, it appears to me that "add-ons" to this bill cuts out Inactive Reserve Time. And, among other "short falls" this new substitute Ohio Revised Code (ORC) change may hurt some veterans. And, it may cause some vets to have to "pay back".
In March of this year 2006, K. Fluke, PhD. and I brought up to the STRS board the fact that there was much confusion generated by ORC 3307.752 that was "up dated" in 1996. In effect, though imperfect, ORC 3307, may award better benefits to vets who purchase, or purchased, military credit. The previous bill was poorly written and needs "fine tuning" for clarity. But should not, in any way, be at the expense of some veterans. Our STRS Executive Director, Damon Asbury, kindly wrote to me that: "All aspects of purchased service provisions are currently being reviewed by the Ohio Service Study Council, (ORSC). Members of that oversight body are concerned that current purchases of service provisions are creating unfunded liabilities to the Retirement System. However, I will ask that the provisions be re-examined to insure fair treatment for all." I hope by his statement: "fair treatment for all" was to mean: fair treatment to all military veterans. Our STRS, after 11-years of political neglect, is straining to provide benefits promised to their members. Funds are tight. I understand that. However, making up any "short fall" by "short changing' some veterans should be closely watched. A comparison between the old ORC and this Sub HB71 needs to be carefully made.The bill is moving quickly.
Adding to the confusion is the STRS pamphlet: "Purchasing Service Credit" (15-119,5/05/26M). The pamphlet does not make absolutely clear the aspects of purchasing military credit. That needs refining as well. The section on page 10, "Free military" is especially confusing.Page 11, Cost is confusing as well. As I mentioned in my last sentence, of my last speech, before the STRS board was: "You are the bread of life". Our STRS is the physical "bread of life" for us retirees. Extreme care should be taken with crafting literature that impacts the lives of STRS members. Those of us who happen to be military veterans certainly, by our service, earned our benefit. They should not, under any circumstances be taken away. If funds need to be found. They should not be found by cutting benefits to military veterans; they should be found somewhere else.
There is an expression: "If you enjoy your democracy, thank a veteran." If you can read this, I might add: If you enjoy your democracy, thank a veteran who happens to be a teacher. As a veteran and a teacher, I ask not for your thanks but that you to contact your state representative for our support, quickly; and, especially, if you are a military vet, to ask for support from your American Legion, the VFW, and the many other military veteran's organizations. The teacher unions should help too. This HB71 need all of their close monitoring. There should be NO GIVE BACKS, only clarification in this bill.
I am very sorry for not letting you all know of this above problems before now. I hope that I have not been remiss.
Robert Hudson Jones, a STRS retired member
Life Mem. of the American Legion, VFW, Korean War Veterans, 31st Inf, Reg, Assoc., NEA, OEA, AEA, NEOEA, ORTA & proud to be a CORE

Thursday, December 14, 2006

News from STRS: House Bill 700 Could Impact STRS Ohio's Existing Defined Benefit Plan and Place Additional Burdens on Employers

December 14, 2006
During this lame-duck session of the Ohio General Assembly, a bill has been introduced by Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R-East Liverpool) that would require school boards to offer private vendor alternative retirement plans (ARPs) to new employees and those with less than five years of service credit as of the effective date of the bill. This is an expansion to all K-12 employees of the defined contribution plans currently available to full-time university faculty.
On Dec. 14, 2006, STRS Ohio provided testimony on this legislation, House Bill 700, before the House Financial Institutions, Real Estate and Securities Committee. (A copy of this testimony can be accessed on the STRS Ohio Web site at: STRS Ohio urged the Legislature to not rush this bill through, but, instead, do a thorough analysis of the impact of the bill on the majority of Ohio educators who are enrolled in STRS Ohio's Defined Benefit Plan, the employers who will have to administer multiple retirement plans, and the State of Ohio.
STRS Ohio members who would like to express their opinion about H.B. 700 are encouraged to send their comments to the legislators listed in the link below. Some of these individuals are members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, which is the legislative oversight committee for Ohio's public pension plans. Others are members of the Senate Health and Human Services and Aging Committee. They have been included on the list because H.B. 700 may become attached to another bill that is currently being reviewed by this committee. AT THIS TIME, THERE APPEARS TO BE AN EFFORT TO HAVE SOME RESOLUTION ON THIS BILL BEFORE THE LEGISLATURE ADJOURNS NEXT TUESDAY, DEC. 19.
The list of House and Senate members' e-mail addresses and phone numbers is at:

Legislative Alert from ORTA

From ORTA to ORTA members, December 14, 2006
Subject: Legislative Alert
Legislative alert.... ORTA members: Please contact your Senators & Representatives and say that you understand that testimony was heard this morning (12/14/06) on HB 700. Please urge all legislators to fully review this bill and not rush it through during this lame duck session.
If you want to read more about the bill, you can do that at this link: (Click here.)
Thank you.
Find your Senators and Representatives here:

Jim N. Reed’s speech to the STRS Board, December 14, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Jim N. Reed and I am an STRS contributor and beneficiary. I have taught in the Liberty Union-Thurston Schools in Fairfield County for 42 years. My remarks today represent my personal opinion but I suspect they are shared by many others.

When I have appeared before this Board in the past I have described my relationship with my retirement system as contentious, one too often associated with disappointment, disillusionment, disgust. I am a member of the class of ’98, one of those retirees who got caught in the cracks during the transition that cost our retirement system its “Cadillac” reputation and that has proven so costly, figuratively and literally, to so many retirees.

Today, I would like to soften the rhetoric in a humble attempt to honor the memory of Mr. Tom Mooney. Though I did not know Mr. Mooney personally as many of you did, I was in attendance at the September Concerned Ohio Retired Educators meeting and had the opportunity to see and sense him in action. One could not help but be impressed with his genuineness, his affection for the cause of a better education process. Pertinent questions were posed to Mr. Mooney during the meeting…”How can we (educators) get the STRS Board members to act realistically. How can we encourage them to stop being rubber stamps and to analyze each matter before them for the benefit of all teachers?”

Included among his recommendations were that educators must be encouraged to have more dialogue with STRS Board members, that educators must improve their attendance at STRS Board meetings, and that educators must give constructive speeches. I must admit this latter admonition got my attention.How

Reading numerous commendations to his life’s dedication to education, I was struck by the number of times I read the same two words used by loved ones, friends and colleagues to describe this extraordinary man’s life…passion and professionalism.

In that spirit, I would challenge all of us in this audience this afternoon to make the extra effort, in Mr. Mooney’s memory, to add to his legacy of loyalty to the education profession with the same passion that became his trademark.

Let us memorialize his untimely passing by grasping this opportunity to reduce the adversarial positions in which we have too often found ourselves. Let us step back and take a deep breath, a fresh breath of hope that this evolving Board and its constituents can find more common ground on which to regain mutual respect and trust.

Mr. Mooney’s life may have been brief but it sparkled with his adamant insistence that education must continue to be bettered for its producers and its consumers. He was a true crusader with a cause to which he gave himself selflessly. His sacrifices have made him an education martyr.

Let us find a path that will compliment his passion and his sacrifices in a bipartisan search for ideas to improve the lives of all in his and in our profession.

Lloyd Knudsen’s speech to the STRS Board, December 14, 2006

My name is Lloyd Knudsen. I was a 30-year teacher in the Woodridge Schools of Summit County. Last month my speech to this board exceeded three minutes and I couldn’t finish it. As a former teacher I understand the need for rules. What I didn’t understand was Dr. Asbury calling time when I’m sure Dr. Leone was designated as the official timekeeper. That could be the answer to a riddle. How many “doctors” does it take to run an STRS stopwatch? Apparently it takes two!

Anyway, after my Bee Hive speech last month a board member said in an e-mail, “As a benefit recipient you certainly are within your rights to poke fun at us. But I can assure you that every member of this board is here for the right reasons.” But you know what? I would be willing to bet that every board member who served during the years STRS spent outrageously on this building, its artwork, on generous staff perks and even on perks for the board members themselves, thought they too, were here for the right reasons.

But that’s history. Let’s talk about the present. We’ve recently seated some new members on this board. There is some evidence of a growing sense of cooperation among board members. So let’s go back to that concept that “every board member is here for the right reasons.” By “right reasons” I think we can all agree that should mean following ORC 3307.15. Board decisions should benefit the STRS benefit recipients and their beneficiaries.

It is my belief that benefit recipients have limited informational access to these important STRS monthly board meetings. How many teachers can make it here monthly to see and hear this board do its job? Active teachers are working and maybe 30 out of a potential 100,000 retirees are here. That is not access. Putting out a brief board summary on the STRS Website, or recording an audio CD for members to request, or putting out an occasional STRS newsletter summarizing WHAT HAS BEEN ALREADY DECIDED is not access. Benefit recipients need real time, unfiltered information on decisions regarding THEIR retirement system.

My proposal to this board is to ask for a board/staff study to research the feasibility of Webcasting all future monthly STRS meetings. I would further suggest because Webcasting would be of greater immediate interest to retirees than actives, that our two retired board member representatives: Jeff Chapman and Dennis Leone be on this committee.

HS Dent: Death of Pensions

Special Report Explains How Underfunded Pension Plans Will Affect Retirees, Investors, and the Economy

TAMPA, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The largest generation in U.S. history is about to retire, wreaking havoc with our economy from two different directions. In a special report, Death of Pensions, Harry S. Dent, Jr., founder and president of the HS Dent Foundation warns that the level of payments promised to future retirees cannot possibly be paid, affecting not only private sector workers but also civil servants.

According to Dent, the effects of this situation will not only cause private and public pensions to lower benefits, but will also drive states and local governments to raise taxes in an effort to pay what they have promised. At the same time, Dent estimates that slower spending by aging Baby Boomers will cause an economic slump after 2010, compounding an already difficult situation.

Retirement benefit systems of all types are in crisis mode. It is a fact that U.S. companies absolutely cannot pay all of the pension and healthcare benefits that they have promised to their workers, Dent states. The statistics barely skim the surface. While the number of underfunded plans is startling, the degree to which some are underfunded is staggering.

To understand the scope of the problem, examine General Motors (GM), for example, suggests Dent. Today, GM has almost $100 billion in their pension fund, but GM is underfunded by more than $7 billion which doesnt include retiree health benefits. Health benefits are totally unfunded, which adds another $60 billion to the GM deficit. With a market capitalization of roughly $17 billion, GM could give itself away to its current and future retirees, and the company would still owe them over $50 billion. A similar scenario, although not as dramatic, applies to the pension funds of many companies and government entities throughout the U.S. The economic implications of pension and healthcare benefit shortfalls are serious, Dent cautions.

Many people believe that the federal government will rescue pensioners and provide needed healthcare benefits. This is unlikely as consumer spending cools after 2010 and tax revenue from corporations fall. Wage growth will slow as well, which reduces tax revenues from individuals, warns Dent. In the resulting stock market decline, there will be little revenue from capital gains or dividend taxes. Revenues will fall, but regular discretionary spending and entitlement spending for Social Security and Medicare will soar, Dent said. Bottom line: Congress wont have the funds to bail out the state and corporate pension plans.

There is no doubt that significant hurdles lie ahead. If Baby Boomers want to maintain a reasonable standard of living during their golden years, they should start preparing NOW, Dent stresses. You absolutely must increase savings, preferably in a tax-favored plan. Income taxes are likely to be significantly higher in coming years; therefore, expect a higher tax bracket in retirement. Look to Roth IRA or the new Roth 401(k) as vehicles to save retirement money while reducing the income tax burden in later years. Health Savings Accounts (HSA) can also save on medical expenses over time. Another strong consideration should be a variable annuity, with guaranteed benefits.

Rather than focus on problems, responsible members of the U.S. economic community must take immediate action. Elected officials should be urged to resolve the fiscal issues that are looming for Social Security and Medicare, Dent advocates. In addition, government programs for saving and managing retirement income and medical needs should be fully utilized. And most importantly, plan for the financial future today by increasing savings, seeking informed financial advice, and selecting investments designed to protect retirement assets during the volatile years ahead.

To obtain a copy of Death of Pensions, purchase it on the online store at, or call Nicole Nonnemaker at 888-307-3368.

About HS Dent Publishing:

HS Dent Publishing ( of Tampa, Fla. helps people understand change and prepare for its arrival through a variety of Dent publications, including the monthly HS Dent Forecast. The Dent methodology, which is based on the study of demographics, or the study of whole populations and their spending habits, takes financial forecasting out of the world of theory and into the realm of real-world consumer behavior, allowing investors to make intelligent and informed economic decisions about their future.


Find your state rep here:
Read the posts below to find out what's going on.
Please scroll down several posts to begin reading current postings. Thanks. KBB

CORE meeting December 14, 11:45 a.m.

CORE will meet this Thursday at 11:45 a.m. in the cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room on the second floor of the STRS building. The Public Speaks portion of the STRS Board meeting is expected to occur about 1:30 p.m. Your support and attendance are needed more than ever.

STRS Board meeting December 13 - 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006: Executive Sessions only
........11:00 a.m. Disability Review Panel
........1:00 p.m. Final Average Salary Committee Meeting

Thursday, December 14, 2006
........9:00 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting

Mark Meuser voices his opposition to HB 700

Mark Meuser to Molly Janczyk, December 14, 2006
Subject: RE: HB700
I have e-mailed my congressman urging him to vote no on HB 700. Thanks for spreading the word about this harmful bill.

Schuring and Fedor fight last minute giveaways to charter schools; OFT vigilant

"This lame duck session is not like any other I've seen," he said. "There's a lot of last-minute stuff swirling around the Statehouse dealing with substantial policy issues without the appropriate due process." Sen. Kirk Schuring
Legislators fight late amending of H.B. 79
Canton Repository, December 14, 2006
By Paul E. Kostyu
Copley Columbus Bureau Chief
COLUMBUS A Republican from Stark County and a Democrat from Lucas County teamed late Wednesday to try to stop amendments affecting charter schools from being added at the last minute to pending legislation.

State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, urged lawmakers not to use House Bill 79 as a charter school bill. That came after they heard rumors Wednesday that amendments are being considered.

House Bill 79, which passed the House and Senate, requires criminal background checks for educators. A conference committee is to meet at 9 a.m. today to negotiate differences between Senate and House versions. It's the first time the committee will have met, even though it received the bill in February.

Fedor said adding amendments "will only be creating further problems for the charter school system in relation to Ohio's overall education system."

"We need to ... fully debate in the full light of day the current status of our charter schools and how to reform them," she said.

Schuring and state Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, have pending bills (Senate Bill 129 and House Bill 213) that tackle accountability of charter schools. Both bills have languished in committee since their introduction in April 2005. Last week, they introduced updated versions.

Schuring said those bills should be the vehicle to change how charter schools operate.

"We need serious deliberation on comprehensive reform before we make changes ... that may create further loopholes for bad actors without providing real reform and oversight for community schools," Schuring said.

Lisa Zellner, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Federation of Teachers, also said she heard about possible amendments. The teachers union and other members of the Coalition for Public Education back Schuring's and Oelslager's bills.

The two bills "would create more accountability, academic and fiscal, that would make sure charter schools are held accountable," she said.

Schuring said the rumors about amendments were enough to cause him concern.

"This lame duck session is not like any other I've seen," he said. "There's a lot of last-minute stuff swirling around the Statehouse dealing with substantial policy issues without the appropriate due process."

Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jim N. Reed to Rep. Schaffer: Caution: Lame Duck Legislation Beyond Lame And A Cheap Shot at Teacher-Vets

From Jim N. Reed, December 13, 2006
Subject: Caution: Lame Duck Legislation Beyond Lame And A Cheap Shot at Teacher-Vets
Representative Schaffer, as a Fairfield County constituent I urge you to exercise immediate caution on a couple pieces of pending legislation that need to be stopped dead in their bloody tracks (educators' blood).

HB 700 is an outright disgrace and my guess is that you have already lent your voice to its opposition as I know your track record supporting education in Fairfield County and your objection to any legislative maneuvering that smacks of a conflict of interest. This one seems to have quite an odor.

Blasdel's attempts to promote a piece of legislation that would draw off retirement contributions from young educators toward private investment (that adds up to a deduction from retired educators) are an embarrassment and potential disaster to all educators, retired, active, and prospective.

I trust you have already voiced your objections and have encouraged the placement of this shameful legislation in the file in which it belongs, DOA, before it ever sees the light of day.

Secure retirement for educators has become such a major disappointment, uncertainty and disillusionment, we certainly do not need another slap in the face. The General Assembly is currently making an effort to help us find a dedicated stream of funding to salvage our retirement healthcare system and we are certainly appreciative. Please awaken Blasdel to the errors of his ways.

Also, Mr. Schaffer, I have recently seen some information on another piece of legislation (HB 71) that is much further along in its legislative path. I would ask that you carefully examine its content to ascertain whether or not it is possible that STRS teacher-veterans may be squeezed out of some of their benefits as scapegoats for the shortfall of others. Certainly, veterans should never be put in a position to be sacrificed after the sacrifices they have already made.
Though I am not a veteran of the Armed Services I have great respect for those who are. I am a veteran of another "front," the classrooms of the Ohio educator." I have been so for 42 years. I certainly do not compare my service to theirs but I do know that a teacher-veteran is a person deserving special commendation and security in retirement.
I would agree with the sentiments of a retired teacher-vet, "If you enjoy your democracy, thank a vet who happens to be a teacher."
Thank you, Representative Schaffer, for your serious and astute examination of these important pieces of pending legislation. Many families' well-being and security are at stake.
Jim N. Reed

Charter schools take their toll on 4 Columbus Public Schools buildings

Panel recommends closing 4 Columbus schools
By Bill Bush
The Columbus Dispatch
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Four more Columbus Public Schools should close this spring, according to a community task force helping the district respond to falling enrollment.

They are:

  • Douglas Alternative Elementary, which has 271 students this school year, down 34 from two years ago. The school is at 90 percent of its capacity.
  • Linden Park I.G.E. Alternative Elementary, which has 171 this school year, down 88 from two years ago. The school is at 49 percent capacity.
  • Medary Elementary, which has 140 students this school year, down 73 from two years ago. The school is at 37 percent.
  • Linmoor Middle, which has 234 students, down 90 students from two years ago. Linmoor is at 31 percent capacity.

Douglas and Linden Park were among four schools that the district put on a “watch list” last school year because of dropping enrollment.

The task force considered schools that met these criteria, among others:

  • Size: High schools with fewer than 800 students, middle schools with fewer than 600 and elementaries with fewer than 400
  • Declining enrollment: Schools that have lost students compared with two years ago
  • No new upgrades: School that have been revamped as part of the district's ongoing plan were excempt
  • Nearby space available: Seats must be available at nearby schools to accommodate the students if a building is closed.

The district will hold forums in January to hear feedback from the community. Any closings ultimately would have to be approved by the school board.

Columbus Public Schools, like other urban districts, has been losing students to charter schools for several years. A new state voucher program that pays for private-school tuition has added to the struggle this year.

The district was down 3,081 students as of the 12th day of the school year compared with the same day in 2005.

Some parents at Douglas Elementary School said today they were upset the school was closing and couldn't understand why Columbus Public Schools would shut down a building in good repair with good academics.

“As a parent, I'm not happy,” said Karen Rector, whose daughter Sydney is in the first grade . “This is the greatest place you could have your child in school.”

If the board approves, this would be the third wave of closings in three years.

The school board voted to close 10 elementary schools and two middle schools Last January. All closed at the end of last school year.

The elementaries were Beck Urban Academy, Brentnell Alternative Traditional, Gladstone, Second Avenue, Koebel, Main, McGuffey, Reeb, Scioto Trail and Stockbridge. The middle schools were Barrett Urban Academy and Crestview.

Another elementary school, Kent, was shuttered at the end of the 2004-05 school year.

Columbus currently operates 128 schools: 76 elementaries, 23 middle schools, 17 high schools, and other schools that combine various upper- and lower-classes, are for developmentally disabled students, and career centers that teach vocational trades.

Since 1999 the district has lost about 10,000 students, or 15 percent of its enrollment. Most of the loss has been attributed to parents choosing to send their children to charter schools -- tuition-free schools that are financed by the state of Ohio but typically are privately run.

Task-force members include business and union leaders as well as Robyn Taylor, president of the Columbus Council of PTAs. The committee's co-chairmen are Alan J. Davidson, a former National City Bank executive, and Floyd V. Jones, a senior vice president of The Dispatch Printing Company, which publishes The Dispatch

Tom Mooney's final exposé of Ohio charter schools -- the gifting goes on......

From John Curry, December 13, 2006
Subject: Tom's final expose' of Ohio charter schools -- the gifting goes on..............
Note from John: I'm sorry I missed this timely article that came out in the Beacon Journal on Dec. 4, 2006. Boy, will we miss Tom Mooney even more than we realized!
``This thing is written to make Brennan filthy rich and to undermine standards in the public schools, too, because they will have to race to the bottom to try to hold onto some of their kids,'' Mooney said.
Posted on Mon, Dec. 04, 2006
Dropout programs won't get new rules
Ohio Core proposal would increase high school graduation standards, but exempt some at-risk students
By Dennis J. Willard
Beacon Journal Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS - Students in dropout recovery schools, like the Life Skills charter schools run by David Brennan's White Hat Management, would not be bound by the stricter high school graduation standards found in the proposed Ohio Core plan moving through the legislature.
Ohio Core, pushed by Gov. Bob Taft, Republican legislative leaders and the Ohio Business Roundtable, appears to be on the fast track in the lame-duck session, despite reservations expressed by Gov.-elect Ted Strickland.
Taft's proposal, a cornerstone of his State of the State address in January, was stalled for months, but two weeks ago, identical substitute versions of the bill were unveiled by Ohio House and Senate sponsors.
Ohio Core ups the ante for high school graduates to enroll in all but three state universities by requiring four years of math, including Algebra II, four years of language arts and three years of science classes that involve laboratory work.
In the substitute versions of the bill, dropout recovery programs designed to keep or bring students back to school to complete a high school diploma are exempt from Ohio Core.
State Sen. Randall Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said dropout recovery programs run by charter schools were already exempt from Ohio Core, so, despite having serious reservations about the idea, he pushed to ensure that all public schools were exempt.
``My preference would be that we make it quite unusual, very unusual, for a student to pursue an alternative path,'' Gardner said. ``Do I think that is the best policy? It's a bicameral legislature and I want to make sure that we don't disrupt some of the good programs that are really meeting the students' needs, and this is not an easy section of state law to write.''
Gardner said he didn't want different sets of standards for dropout recovery programs in charter and traditional public schools.
More and more traditional public schools have started dropout recovery programs similar to Life Skills to reach students who are at risk of either leaving school or have dropped out and wish to return to earn a diploma.
Exemption concern
There are students who have challenging economic, social and family circumstances that require an alternative educational opportunity such as a dropout recovery program, but Gardner said he agrees with concerns that the exemptions may go too far.
``When we ask students to do more, they usually rise to our expectations,'' Gardner said.
The Ohio Core bill now allows students to be eligible for a dropout recovery program and avoid the Ohio Core curriculum if they are 16 or older, and at least one year behind their peer group in school or have a personal crisis that interferes with their schoolwork.
The exemption for charter schools is being pushed by the House sponsor, state Rep. Arlene Setzer, R-Vandalia. She did not respond to requests to be interviewed.
White Hat response
Tom Needles, a lobbyist for White Hat, said there have been ongoing discussions between the legislative and executive branches of government to address the dropout population.
``There's a universal recognition among policymakers that this population of students is a unique one and a consensus is developing that we should assist these students in every way possible so that they, too, can become productive members of society,'' Needles said.
Bob Tenenbaum, a White Hat spokesman, said the company operates 18 Life Skills schools in Ohio that enroll about 5,000 students.
Tom Mooney, Ohio Federation of Teachers president, said the exemption in the bill for the dropout recovery program is wide open for both charter and traditional public schools.
Mooney said the state is raising standards without investing in the programs, and money is not being directed toward the neediest students to close achievement gaps in the education system.
``So you're really creating a bonanza for Brennan and people like him. You're going to have a lot of students who are not prepared to meet those standards, so White Hat is going to open 10 more Life Skills centers or the public schools that are forced to hold onto students will have to open their own dropout recovery programs with low standards, so you defeat the whole purpose of the bill,'' Mooney said.
Mooney said the Ohio Federation of Teachers, representing more than 20,000 teachers in the state, supports the ideas behind Ohio Core, but the state should be careful in defining which students can opt out of the new standards and enroll in a dropout recovery program.
``There is a subset who are very far behind. Even with them, the question is, do you want a three-tiered system, where here is the real diploma, here is the second-class diploma and here is the GED?'' Mooney asked. ``Do we really want to invite large numbers of kids to succumb to the temptation to go for the easy diploma?''
Mooney said the definition of eligibility should be much narrower.
``This thing is written to make Brennan filthy rich and to undermine standards in the public schools, too, because they will have to race to the bottom to try to hold onto some of their kids,'' Mooney said.
Needles said he did not want to respond to Mooney's accusations.
Committee vote Tuesday
Gardner said the legislation increases academic standards for all other charter schools, including online, by requiring students to meet the standards of Ohio Core. Currently, charter school students not in dropout recovery programs must pass the Ohio Graduation Test.
The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote Tuesday to move the bill to the full Senate.
Gov.-Elect Strickland has indicated he would like the legislature to delay work on Ohio Core until after his January inauguration.
He has expressed concerns that the program may lead to a two-tiered system of education in the state, and he wanted to study the impact on charter schools.

Gregory Nickell: Some answers for Shirlee Zerkel

From Shirlee Zerkel, December 13, 2006
Subject: Re: Questions about preventive services in Basic Plan for 2007
Dear Mr. Nickell:
Thank you for the promised response. I still do have questions and the main one is this:
Since a colonoscopy is an unusual test in that during the preventative test, work to remove polyps can actually be done. Why don't you, Medical Mutual and Aetna work on a solution as to how this test is to be paid. Why can't STRS/MM or Aetna require that the physician bill the test and the actual removal of polyps as separate parts on the same bill. The additional amount that it would cost for the removal of the polyps could then have the medical code for treatment and the test could have the preventive code.
Also when you mention 100% preventive tests, do you mean just the administering of the test, such as the surgeon in a colonoscopy or is the facility, anesthetist, etc. also covered?
Thank you again,
Shirlee Zerkel
From Gregory R. Nickell, December 13, 2006
Subject: Re: Questions about preventive services in Basic Plan for 2007
Dear Ms. Zerkel
I am responding on behalf of Sandy Knoesel to your December 11, 2006 email request for clarification regarding the 2007 Basic Plan's Preventive Benefits.
First, I want to apologize for any confusion that has been created through your review of written material and your conversations with Medical Mutual. I understand the importance of retirees knowing and understanding their health benefits and how to best utilize them. Let's see if we can clear up your concerns.
I will try and address each of your issues.
1. Some preventive tests and services that STRS says are covered are not on the printed list from Medical Mutual. You are correct. The Medical Mutual list I believe you reference was an outline of 2007 benefits for the Plus, Basic and Indemnity Plans. It was not designed to be a complete listing of benefits. While there was a notation at the bottom of the first page that stated in part, "This document is only a partial listing of benefits", I realize based on the concerns you raise that there should have been more emphasis on subsequent pages restating that the lists were not complete.
2. About a month ago I spoke with Medical Mutual and was told that only one routine visit a year was allowed; now I am told that I can go to a GP for a routine physical and then also to a gyn for a female exam and both would be covered by the 100%. Both statements are correct assuming the claims are submitted by a network provider with either a preventive diagnosis and/or procedure code. The routine physical exam and the gynecological exam are processed as distinctly different services and therefore, both would be allowed under the 100% preventive network coverage. However, if you had a second claim submitted by the general practitioner (GP) for a routine visit, this would not be covered under the 100% preventive coverage just like the Medical Mutual individual indicated.
3. Today, I spoke with Medical Mutual about the differences in the lists and was told that STRS was to get information out to the members on the basic policy that could be taken to our doctors so they would know what is covered as routine. STRS Ohio is finalizing this document and it will be sent to 2007 Basic Plan participants soon.
4. I was also told today by Medical Mutual that the Colonoscopy is routine until they find polyps that have to be removed during the procedure. Then it becomes a medical situation, subject to the deductible in our insurance policy. Yet the retiree does not know which it will be until the test is over. Will it be no cost or will the retiree have to pay for the entire test? That is a very expensive test and the retiree's budget may not allow for such an expense. Is this a way to keep us from using the 100% routine preventive services? Let me answer the last part of your question first. I assure you there is no intent to discourage retirees from utilizing preventive services. The primary purpose of adding this benefit is to assist retirees with maintaining their health.
The 100% routine preventive services are limited to screenings, tests and immunizations. Removal of polyps is not considered to be a part of a screening/test procedure. In this specific situation, as you state, the test can transition into treatment during the screening and is billed by the provider with a code that is diagnostic rather than preventive.
I realize the treatment is expensive and it could place the individual in a difficult financial position. But, when compared to other situations where a condition is discovered as a result of a preventive test/screening it is quite similar. For example, if it was determined from a preventive EKG that you had a heart condition and later you had surgery to treat the situation, the EKG would be covered at 100% but the heart surgery would be subject to deductible and coinsurance. In both cases, you would be subject to the deductible and coinsurance for the treatment of the condition and you would not have any out-of-pocket expenses for a screening/test.
We are continuing to explore whether there are any other options to address this issue with Aetna and Medical Mutual.
5. Is this same feature also true for other preventive tests-that if an illness is uncovered by the test, then the test will not be covered 100% because it is now a health condition? Other tests are performed separately from any treatment and therefore, they would be covered at 100% assuming they are billed by a network provider with a preventive diagnosis and/or procedure code.
6. Sandy, you stated in an email to me that you were working closely with Aetna and MM concerning the coverage. I do not see that STRS and the insurance company are on the same page. STRS Ohio staff conducted multiple meetings along with joint conference calls with Aetna and Medical Mutual to ensure this benefit is processed the same between both administrators and that all parties have the same understanding. The STRS Ohio program utilized what many believe to be the best point of reference for preventive services, the U.S Preventive Services Task Force. STRS Ohio's coverage is based upon the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's list of recommended services and is designed to cover what most physicians would see as preventive services.
7. I am not the only confused retiree, and the person at MM also has received many calls with these same questions. Again, I extend my apologies for any confusion caused by the introduction of the 100% preventive service coverage. As indicated in the answer to your first question, there is room for improvement. We constantly review our communications and will keep your concerns in mind as new materials are developed. STRS Ohio staff also contacted Medical Mutual to stress the importance of clear communications regarding the Basic Plan's preventive services.
Ms. Zerkel, I hope the information provided above answers your questions. If you still have concerns regarding the 2007 Basic Plan Preventive coverage, please contact me.
Gregory R Nickell
Director, Health Care Services
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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