Friday, April 06, 2007

Jim Reed to Ann Hanning re: ORTA, Dr. Leone, CORAS, and Snowbirds

From Jim N. Reed, April 6, 2007
Subject: ORTA, Dr. Leone, CORAS, and Snowbirds
Dear Ms. Hanning,
In his recent letter to ORTA Mr. Thomas Curtis challenged your organization to perform an introspection, a self-appraisal of its charter and current purpose for existence. His criticism of your decision not to publish STRS Board member Dr. Dennis Leone in ORTA's just-released newsletter is well founded.
Mr. Curtis is one of the most respected and well-versed charter members of Concerned Ohio Retired Educators and a lifetime member of ORTA. He has worked tirelessly and effectively to inform Ohio's active and retired teachers of the performance, or lack of, among those organizations that portend to advocate for all educators.
STRS and ORTA are at the top of that list and rightfully targeted. What organizations should be further out front in providing the leadership necessary to provide and protect an affordable and secure retirement for every career educator? If, as retired educators, we can not look to our 87-year-old retirement system and 60-year-old teacher organization for that leadership and protection, what a shameful state of affairs.
When ORTA opted not to publish Dr. Leone's STRS Board quarterly summary, a message of disrespect, disregard, and disconnect was sent to retirees. Those knowledgeable of Dr. Leone's 2003 award-winning research, exposing the greed and corruption within the Boardroom, and subsequent insistence on policy change must regard ORTA's decision as inexcusable and offensive.
Any individual or organization representing Ohio educators who remains ignorant of Dr. Leone's comprehensive investigative reports, using fact and figures from STRS's own public records, can offer only phantom leadership. Such ignorance should abdicate even a pretense of leadership and clear the path for continued reform ignited by Dr. Leone. Too many prospective and current retirees' well-being is at stake and they deserve no less.
Not only should Dr. Leone's article have been published but ORTA needs to rectify its abstinence of support for the STRS Board leadership of Dr. Leone (and Mr. John Lazares.) ORTA's silence in supporting, encouraging, and recognizing their leadership is deafening!
(Is it any wonder that ORTA's county affiliates are as ineffectual and out-of-touch as many are? Many have become no more than afternoon tea parties.. Many are social clubs that have no concept of what has happened to their profession's retirement system and, worse, have no understanding of how it has, or will, negatively impact their families' security.)
Risking breaking a questionable publishing principle, it should be noted that two days ago Ohio University at Chillicothe released an announcement of the awarding of a distinguished "Leadership Award" to Dr. Dennis Leone by 100 public school and college administrators (Coalition of Rural Appalachian Schools).
How can it be that, once again, Dr. Leone's leadership of an STRS Renaissance can go unnoticed by ORTA? Not only has his past meritorious recognition been slighted, his current efforts to educate stakeholders of relevant STRS policy changes (via ORTA publications) been rejected, but new honors (CORAS) will more than likely go unrecognized (perhaps because of journalism's prohibition on publishing cold material.)
Finally, I wonder how many recipients of a recent ORTA-endorsed solicitation from Medical Air Services Association (MASA) questioned this disconnect? This "premiere emergency assistance provider" offers a "Platinum Membership" for about $400 per year for family protection. (This insurance is offered for emergency travel during times of medical alert.)
Granted, there are people who may find this kind of care advantageous but there are so many more retirees who are forced to cancel a regular physician's appointment or who find pill-splitting and generic medication insufficient to keep them from healthcare disaster.
One of MASA's customer testimonials suggests, "...any snowbird who does not stupid." How many of our colleagues have been placed in dire jeopardy of losing their deserved, earned, everyday healthcare by unprepared, uncaring, disconnected STRS decision makers and ORTA's reticence to be critical? Snowbird concerns?
Can ORTA not provide a better service to its retirees by insisting that its retirement system and its own leadership recognize the real-life needs of its members and publicly salute those who have demanded and effected change to assist in meeting those needs?
Jim N. Reed

Canton Repository: Dann won't let fellow officeholders off hook

"Dann is telling everyone in Columbus that he won't let violations of the open meetings law go unchallenged. We welcome it." Canton Repository
From The Canton Repository, April 6, 2007
Dann won't let fellow officeholders off hook
Elected officials do not often cite the Sunshine Law to criticize the work of other government officials. But that's just what Attorney General Marc Dann did when he recommended that three members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio resign. Why? Because, Dann says, they were nominated during meetings that were illegally closed to the public.
Usually, it is a news organization or, more rarely, a citizen who complains about closed government and then has to come up with the money to go to court and force the government to obey the law. This time, the state attorney general is calling the foul, even if it disrupts the first nomination to the PUCO by fellow Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland.
The first few months of a new term is time for elected officials to take public actions that help form their early reputations. Note Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's attempt to unseat the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for its stewardship of an incompetent elections process. It is one example of this reputation building, and it also seems the right thing for her to do.
Dann is telling everyone in Columbus that he won't let violations of the open meetings law go unchallenged. We welcome it.

A letter to the AG: STRS and the Sunshine Law

From Kathie Bracy, April 6, 2007
Subject: STRS and the Sunshine Law
Dear Mr. Dann,
Thank you very much for going after offenders in the PUCO with regard to the Sunshine Law. I would like to know if the Sunshine Law also applies to Board meetings at the State Teachers Retirement System.
Secret ballot votes were taken to appoint Conni Ramser to replace Jack Chapman (who was forced out because of his conviction on ethics charges) and Tai Hayden to replace Michael Billirakis (same reason). The names are not particularly relevant here; the real issue is the process used: a secret vote.
When Board member Dennis Leone asked why they weren't voting publicly, the response he received (I can't recall offhand who said it) was "Because we don't have to."
Something's not right about this picture; I would now like to know if the STRS Board is also subject to the Sunshine Law. For that matter, is STRS Ohio itself subject to that law?
Many thanks.

From Molly Janczyk: History of healthcare for the five state pension systems

From Molly Janczyk, April 6, 2007
Sources: Taken from the ORSC, OPERS, STRS, OP&F websites on HC:
The information below is taken directly from the following sites: opers healthcare; op&f healthcare; strs healthcare; orsc
History of HC for the 5 pension systems:
Taken from context: paraphrased from ORSC site:
'ORSC formed in '68 to assist legislation.............. in oversight and to advise and inform legislature on all matters related to benefits, funding, investments, administration for the 5 pension systems of Ohio. Since '74 each system provided some level of comprehensive medical, hospital and RX coverage.
Contributions in excess of what is needed to fund vested pension benefits can be allocated to HC. In '74 retirement systems were given a broad DISCRETIONARY authority to provide HC. However the primary function is pensions. UNLIKE PENSIONS BENEFITS WHICH BECOME VESTED UPON RETIREMENT, HC BENEFITS ARE NOT A VESTED RIGHT under Ohio pension law. Boards are authorized to change premiums, eligibility and level of HC benefits at any time. Money for HC funding must come from employer contributions.
The 2004 ruling by the 10th District Crt of Appeals: Ohio Association of Public Employees vs. the SERS Board upheld the discretionary nature of HC benefits in a lawsuit that attempted to prevent SERS from changing the HC plan. Ohio Supreme Crt. declined to review the case in 2005.'
The old ORC may state that STRS provided HC for free because STRS did elect to do so in 1978. It did do so for many years until
1999. All STRS literature I have states that this can change at any time with wording such as: The following is taken for STRS HC 1994: But all phamphlets we examined >and had our attorney look at from dates back to the
70's had similar language at least saying HC >benefits could change:
"The STRS may determine the benefit coverage and pay ALL OR PART of the monthly premium costs..........................Benefit levels and premium costs, if any, may be revised and charged preriodically based on funding revenue available to STRS." If you read your old STRS HC phamplets you will find such language.
For those wondering why different pension systems offer different benefits than STRS: The following is taken from OPERS, OP&F, and STRS websites speaking to HC:
1. OPERS: 'PERS set aside funds years ago to defray cost escalation and is segregated now from pension funds. HC fund is at $12 Billion. PERS began prefunding in '74 when HC was first offered.
PERS has nearly double the contributing active membership and their employees tend to retire later making it closer to their receiving Medicare and thus not drawing on PERS for the same amount of time as STRS retirees.
In 2004 OPERS was at 27 yrs. unfunded liability statewide and 21 years locally. Therefore, OPERS contributed 4.5% to their HC fund in 2006
2. OP&F has infinity as their unfunded liability. However, they have employer contributions of : Police: 19.50% Fire: 24%
They use 7.75% to fund HC from their much higher employer contribution on a
3 tier level system: The retiree pays 25-100% depending on qualifications: age being one , I believe. The older you are, the more is paid for you (Medicare kicks in and make it cheaper for them) Those who select higher cost programs, pay the difference which goes into the HC fund.
3. STRS: is at 47.2 yrs unfunded liability and receives 14% employer contributions which has not changed for many years. STRS , based on funding revenue, must pay down its liability so only contributes 1% of the employer contributions. The good news reported is that IF the investment staff is able to continue as it has in recent years (difficult to do at such high returns indefinitely but they have outpreformed the other pension systems locally and nationally), it will be only several years or so before unfunded liability is down to 30 yrs. Also, IF HCA legis passes , this will positively impact both HC and liability.
There has been much discussion about whether a system must go with 30 yrs and if it has the option of contributing more to HC if over 30 yrs. Schuring , I believe, said it is the main decision of systems but the ORSC frowns heavily on systems not making ernest efforts in this regard finding it irreponsible to not ever hoping to fund their most important requirement by law: pensions. ORSC calls the systems in to report their status. OP&F is the only system not complying and is the only system also found with much more serious ethics violations than the other systems.
You were told you have free HC because we did. But it was not vested at as the above makes clear. Search orsc for this same info as well as search: OPERS HC; OP&F HC; STRS HC.
Kathie has put the ORSC link on her blogsite for your convenience..

Valuable Medicaid information from Molly Janczyk: Protected income/assets: Medicaid: General info

From Molly Janczyk, April 6, 2007
Subject: Protected Income/Assets: Medicaid: General info
ALL cases vary and this is only general info for consideration of your status. EACH person must seek advice and particulars for themselves. This info may raise questions or motivate readers to search for personal answers.
SEEK a reputable ELDER attorney who specializes in Medicare and Medicaid laws. Be sure they are well versed and handle a large volume of such cases.
1. US Dept of Health: _www.aspe.hhs.gov_ (
Page down or type in the following posting: "Spouses of Medicaid Long Term Recipients": April 2005
2. Ohio State Bar Assoc.: _www.ohiobar.org_ (
3. Attorney sites
Spousal Protection In 2004, income protection was $1505 per mo. adjusted yearly for inflation. States could raise to a max of $2319 per mo as 35 states did.
Couples income divided into his and hers by name on the checks including pension checks, IRA payouts, etc paid only to account holder.
Joint income divided in 1/2: Community spouse (non institutionalized at home spouse) receives all his or her income including own assests plus 1/2 shared income. There are minumums and maximums applied. If 1/2 of shared income is less than the minimum, then then institutionalized spouse must be allowed to supplement the at home spouse up to the minimum or if the at home spouse is very low in income, they may receive all combined income.
If the at home spouse receives high income, they may receive little or no supplement for the institutionalized spouse. Even if the income of the at home spouse is high, Medicaid cannot require any of it spent toward the institutionalized spouse's care.
The at-home spouse keeps the home, household goods, personal effects and
1/2 assets up to current maximum of $101,640. Minimums are in the $20,000 range.
An individual with no spouse or child living in home must spend down to $1500 of total assets to qualify for Medicaid. If a child is living in home, the home is protected.
If the house is in the institutionalized spouse's estate at death, proceeds go towards the cost of care while institutionalized. If a spouse or child is living in the house, the home is often protected for them.
Protected Assets: (THIS IS ALL GENERAL INFO AND NOT TO BE CONSIDERED UNLESS UNDER KNOWLEDGABLE ELDER ATTORNEY'S ADVICE) Assets are added together. Subtract $2000 for use by institutionalized spouse's needs. Divide assets in 1/2. If the at home spouse is less than total of State's minimum and maximum, the at home spouse gets to raise to the minimum. If the at home spouse receives more than maximum, the at home spouse is limited to the maximum.
To at home spouse must be done 36 months prior to institutionalization or
60 months prior if for trusts.
There are laws and formulas for gifting money. Age and amount are factored. For every $4806 (average cost of a nursing home in Ohio) gifted in one month, you must wait one month to go into a nursing home. So, if you gift $48,060, you are disqualified for 10 mo. of institutionalized nursing home care.
My mother gifted money to her grandchildren for education and kept her formula amount determined in her Elder Law attorney free consult.
Assisted living in Ohio pays for limited at home care under the Passport Waiver Program and includes 1800 living placements this year. I assume this is a low income program. Due to the amount gifted, she could not go into a nursing home for custodial care without paying herself for 2 and 1/2 years. She kept that amount back in her accounts should she need a nursing home and gifted all the rest of her money to her grandchildren so as to pay her fair share for custodial nursing home care but not have her entire life's savings taken by one.
I advised her on this as she wanted to pay her fair share and refused to live with one of us if she had to be under custodial care adamant about not being a 'burden'. Fortunately, long term custodial care in a facility did not occur. The average stay in a custodial care facility long term is 1 yr. But, we all know folks who have lived in such for years.
Annuities transferred must be to recipient with reasonable life expectancy.
Some planning tools available to research:
1. Hybrid policies: ties to annuities and life insurance
2. Medicaid Annuities
3. Twist on single premium life insurance with guarantee issue and no medical underwriting if in phase of pay down for Medicaid or soon to be in this phase. Medicare typically provides 100% for 1st 20 days in a hospital or skilled
(non custodial) facility. Then reduced coverage for the next 80 days.
This is meant to raise questions for your own future status for gaining advice for your personal. All info taken from sites listed above. Please list questions you have and take to an Elder Law Attorney. BE SURE FREE CONSULTS
are available and answer most these issues. It is your choice then to go on and use the attorney for trusts, wills, annuities, etc. or simply write down info and leave the office for free with your personal status questions answered.
That is what my mother and I did when we visited an Elder Law Attorney who helped write the Medicare and Medicaid laws for Ohio.

STRS and ORTA are hoping to print some Medicare HC info in newsletters in answer to questions raised. Questions and concerns for Gary Russell who is reviewing them with his HC dept for accuracy and will tweak the article before circulation. Both Gary and Ann Hanning have agreed it is important for retirees to be well informed on these confusing issues. I hope OEA-R will also consider adding this final report in their newsletter.

Molly Janczyk: Comments on Dennis Leone's leadership and service award

From Molly Janczyk, April 6, 2007
Subject: Dennis Leone: Recognized for Educator Advocate
Dennis Leone is again being recognized for leadership in education by the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Scholars as an advocate for Ohio Educators. He is 1 of 3 being recognized.
Leone rec'd an Ohio Ethics award from the Gov't Finance Officers in 2005 and the First Amendment Award for Journalism from the Ohio chapter of the Society of Professional Journalism in 2004 for his report on STRS.
It is puzzling to me why he is not courted by State Organizations for Active and Retired Educators for his input and widely recognized educator advocacy positions. Most retired educators statewide hold him in high regard knowing the invaluable role he has assumed on our behalf. He has had to fight for change on the STRS Board until recently joined by investment appointees who seem to understand their role under the ORC to stand solely for membership.
Tom Mooney, departed Pres. of OFT, met and spoke with Leone and Lazares regularly openly discussing and formulating goals for educators. Sadly, Mooney is sorely missed for his aggressive advocacy role and ability to communicate with everyone who could help educators, something not widely evidenced by other organizations.

Tom Curtis to ORTA: Shame on you!

From Tom Curtis, April 6, 2007
Subject: 040607 To The ORTA Executive Committee
April 6, 2007
To The ORTA Executive Committee,
I received my ORTA newsletter yesterday and found that the column Dr. Dennis Leone (one of two retiree representatives on the STRS board) submitted to ORTA for publication this quarter had been omitted.
Shame on all of you who made this decision! This is such a travesty on your part and shows that ORTA is clearly only a social organization and nothing more. This act is the final straw in a long series of failures to support the one person that had the courage and knowledge to step forward and begin a reform process that might save our retirement system from insolvency in the not to distant future.
This decision is a childish act by each of you who perpetrated such a cause. It clearly shows that the mind bank running this organization does not have the capability or vision of being anything greater then a lunch group. ORTA has continually shown me that it is not a strong advocate for the retired teachers' benefits, simply by not supporting Dr. Leone on the many changes he has brought about to date. If it were not for Dennis Leone, our retirement system would be in a far greater financial situation then it is currently, as other states that have had poor management throughout the years.
Those of you that voted for this decision are a disgrace to your profession and violate your statement for existence as an organization. I have lost complete confidence in the ORTA leadership and will strongly advise people to join the only true advocate for STRS retirees, which is CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators).
ORTA Life Member,
Thomas Curtis
Stark County

And ORTA continues to SNUB him? (This is getting REALLY bizarre!)

Press Release from Ohio University, April 5, 2007
The Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools has recognized Ohio University-Chillicothe employee Dennis Leone for his leadership and service as an advocate for Ohio educators. Leone is one of three individuals to receive the recognition this year.
He will receive a framed certificate April 24 from the coalition, which is part of the Ohio University College of Education.
Leone is interim assistant dean for development and interim director of the Ross County/Ohio University-Chillicothe Child Development and Family Service Center.
He is being recognized for his service on the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Directors. Leone is in his second year with the STRS board.
Leone has received the Ohio Ethics Award from the Government Finance Officers Association in 2005 and the First Amendment Award from the Ohio Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2004. Before being elected to the STRS board, Leone wrote a 13-page report on STRS spending practices and has continued to advance initiatives for change as an active board member.
A long-time educator, the Lawrence, Kansas, native spent 33 years as a teacher and administrator. He was superintendent of schools in the Chillicothe City School District from 1997 before retiring in 2004.
Leone earned his bachelor's degree in education from Bowling Green State University, his master's degree in public relations from American University in Washington, D.C., and his doctorate from the University of Arkansas.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fighting The Pharma Goliath

"We in the grassroots must do all we can to make sure the facts don’t get trampled by the lobbyist army."
If you are a CORE member.... you ARE "grassroots!" John
Fighting The Pharma Goliath
Bill Scher
April 5, 2007
Bill Scher blogs for the Campaign For America's Future. He also founded the blog Liberal Oasis.
If you watch a lot of CNN or MSNBC, you’ve probably seen the pharmaceutical lobby’s ads warning about “changes” to Medicare prescription drug program, because the program is “working.” (Then again, you might have heard a few notes of the off-the-shelf Muzak-folk music not good enough to be used in ads for Nexium or Lipitor, and tuned the ads out.)

Nevertheless, these ads are part of a massive lobbying campaign to kill legislation empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, repealing the current prohibition. Such a bill has already passed the House, and the Senate is expected to take up the issue later this month. This past Sunday, The Center for Public Integrity found that Big Pharma has flooded Washington with $155 million and an “army” of lobbyists more than 1,000 strong.

Part of the lobbying campaign is to give the impression that huge numbers of people are satisfied with the status quo, despite the fact that 85 percent of the country supports having Medicare negotiate. (The TV ad currently airing includes flat lies about the stance of one newspaper’s editorial board.)

The other part is a wonky misinformation campaign to claim private companies are already negotiating and lowering prices, and Medicare can’t do as good a job. The campaign has been aided by the White House and abetted by parts of the media, particularly The Washington Post. But the White House won’t back up its claims. When asked by a House committee for the supporting data, Bush’s Medicare officials refused to release it.

And on Wednesday, a new report from Institute for America’s Future put to rest any notion that Medicare can’t reap significant savings, finding that: “Allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices would bring around $30 billion in savings that can help American seniors and taxpayers.”

That’s $30 billion each year, by the way. That is not chump change.

At a press conference announcing the report, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called out the glaring contradiction in Big Pharma’s arguments. The pharmaceutical companies insist that negotiating by Medicare wouldn’t affect prices, yet also complain it would hurt research and development (a.k.a. cut into their enormous profits). Both can’t be true. Noting the ferocity and expense of Big Pharma’s lobbying campaign, Stabenow said, “Their behavior does not fit the rhetoric."

Yet it is possible that a common sense position held by 85 percent of the public may become victim to a warped debate, because of that disingenuous rhetoric. We in the grassroots must do all we can to make sure the facts don’t get trampled by the lobbyist army.

NY Times: N.J. Pension Fund Endangered by Diverted Billions

From a retiree, April 4, 2007
Subject: New Jersey Problems
Kathie -
Here's an article from today's NY Times that might be of interest to blog readers. It demonstrates how threats to your pension can come from many directions, even "friends" in political office who see our rich pension funds as bail-outs for poor fiscal planning in state government.
Along the same lines as New Jersey, Ohio Gov. Jim Rhodes proposed making STRS funds available to help finance state projects during his second term. Fortunately for us, a Democrat majority in the legislature stopped it.
Click here to view article
Follow-up articles:
April 5, 2007: Outside Audit Is Promised for New Jersey Pension Fund
NJEA statement on public employees’ pension funds

RH Jones: NEOEA-R to provide buses for April 24 rally in Columbus

From RH Jones, April 5, 2007
Subject: Shame! SummitCRTA has no bus to Columbus Apr. 24!
To all SummitCRTA Members:
After months of my appealing for a bus, as of today, the SummitCRTA has NO free bus or NO member-paid bus to the Columbus rally the 24th of this month. Yet, in the meantime, they have found buses for social trips. Thousands of dollars remain used in the treasury of the association. One wonders what we pay our dues for?
However, as stated in the NEOEA-R publication of Apr. 2207, they finally, seem to be responding to their membership. They are providing a bus Apr. 24, May 1 and May 22. You who are members of NEOEA-R, or OEA life members, may wish to take the bus by going to web site: or calling the office at:440-845-2030. The article states: "The bus leaves the Parma Heights NEOEA office at 6:00AM and Burbank Lodi Prime Outlets Mall at 7:00AM. The bus returns to Burbank at 3:00PM and Parma Heights at 4:00PM."
Why would you want to go? To get the HC.Rx legislation moving and to show strong support for the new education initiatives.
RHJones, SummitCRTA member & NEOEA-R life mem.

65? Got $215,000 to spend on your health care costs?

For those "rugged individualists" who plan on opting for the "defined contribution" STRS retirement here's an estimate of what kind of bucks they will have to spend on medical care for the rest of their lives! Of course, with the high deductibles of the current STRS healthcare insurance coverages (and the high premiums-especially for spouses) maybe one should take the risk and say, "The heck with healthcare insurance, I'll take my chances!"
John [Curry]

Houston Chronicle, March 28, 2007
Coverage & Access
    65-Year-Old Couple Retiring in 2007 Will Need $215,000 for Future Health Care Costs, According to Fidelity Estimate

An average 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need about $215,000 for health care costs for the rest of their lives, according to a Fidelity Investments estimate released on Tuesday, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. Fidelity calculated the estimate assuming that retirees had no employer-sponsored health coverage and that average life expectancies were 82 years for men and 85 years for women. The costs do not include over-the-counter medications, most dental services and long-term care. Fidelity estimated that about 32% of retiree health care spending would be on Medicare premiums for physician visits, outpatient hospital care and prescription drugs. Thirty-five percent of the expenses would come from Medicare copayments, deductibles and other cost-sharing provisions. Out-of-pocket prescription drug costs would account for 33% of retirees' health care spending, according to Fidelity. Fidelity estimated that 65-year-old workers who plan to retire at the end of the year should expect that 50% of their pretax Social Security benefits will be consumed by health expenses within the next 16 to 18 years. The latest estimate is 7.5% greater than the estimate released in 2006. Retiree health care expenses annually have increased by an average of 6.1% over the past five years. Fidelity projects health care costs will increase by about 7% per year, outpacing inflation. Brad Kimler, senior vice president for Fidelity Employer Services, attributes the rising costs to higher-cost medical technologies and prescription drugs, and longer life expectancy. "We don't expect to see this number going down," he said (Jewell, AP/Houston Chronicle, 3/28).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wanna see some REAL Rx sticker shock?

How many times have you heard this phrase?

No, my fabulous pharmacy friends, these items are often considerably MORE expensive than gold… we’re talking Americium expensive.

For comparison, the price of Ridauraa gold salt in capsule form — is $295.79 for 60 caps.*

In no particular order:

  1. Zyvox (linezolid): $1,546.78 for 20 tablets.
  2. Cocaine HCl 135mg: $1,144.80 for 100 tablets
  3. 1L of normal saline: $100**
  4. Casodex (bicalutamide): $519.76 for 30 tablets.
  5. Enbrel (etanercept): $7,500/ounce.
  6. Lamisil (terbinafine): $435.84 for 30 tablets.
  7. OxyContin 80mg: $662.31 for 90 tablets. (Street value is approximately $7,200 for these same 90 tabs).
  8. Aldara (imiquimod) cream: $268.38 for 12×1 gram packets.
  9. Vancocin: $651.85 for 20 pulvules
  10. Iressa (gefitinib): $2,127.35 for 30 tablets
  11. Gleevec (imatinib): $3,563.26 for 30 tablets.

Got anything to add?

* All prices are AWP.
** Except this one. ;)

Cleveland Plain Dealer on double-dipping

Taxpayers get ripped off again
Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 4, 2007
Regina Brett, Plain Dealer Columnist
Double-dipping is too kind a word for it.
Double-dipping is when you dip a corn chip in the salsa, take a bite off, then dunk it back in. Or when you shove a carrot stick in the ranch dip, chomp on it, then slide it back in the bowl for more.
It's disgusting. It ruins the communal dish we're all invited to share.
When double-dippers reach into your wallet, let's call it what it is: plain, simple, garden-variety greed.
Double-dippers are those greedy folks who retire from a government job with full pension and benefits only to turn around years, months or weeks later to get another government job, with full pension and benefits.
They are ripping the taxpayers off.
And they're keeping other people unemployed.
A Monday story by Plain Dealer reporters John Caniglia and Joan Mazzolini pointed out that U.S. Sen. George Voinovich and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones get $50,000 from a pension on top of the $168,500 federal salary they each rake in.
Then there's Solon school Superintendent Joseph Regano who gets paid $176,000 a year and at least $75,000 in an annual pension. He retired, then returned to work three years ago.
Those are just a few of the high-profile cases.
Double-dippers who retire and return to work often say they're helping us when they're actually helping themselves to our wallets.
Double-dippers defend their greed by saying they put the money into their pensions, it's just their money they're getting. What they don't tell you is that they put in about 10 percent of their salaries. Their employers -- using your tax dollars -- put in around 14 to 25 percent.
They say no one else can do the job as well as they can for the price. That's a tad arrogant, don't you think?
They say we're getting their experience at bargain-basement prices. Tell that to all the people fresh out of college who aren't getting hired.
Last week a young woman called to complain that she can't find a job anywhere.
"Everyone wants experience," she told me, "But no one will give me any experience."
Chances are good she will end up leaving Cleveland to get it.
Contrast that to the complaints from some Cleveland teachers who called and wrote me. They cried that they took a retirement buyout under the old administration and now the district won't rehire them. Good for the district. New, young, fresh teachers need those jobs.
We keep lamenting brain drain. Why don't we stop some of it by forbidding people who retire from the public sector to return to the same or similar jobs?
The public retirement system was set up to help folks retire to live on their savings or pension. It wasn't meant to be a revolving door to a bank full of taxpayer's money.
Don't retire if you are not finished working for the city, county or federal government.
If you're going to retire, retire. Get the watch, cut the cake, collect the pension and let someone else get a job.
There's a crowd waiting. Some 295,000 workers in Ohio are unemployed.
Those people would love the chance for a single dip in the employment pool.
To reach Regina Brett:, 216-999-6328
Previous columns online:

Medicare and STRS members: explained by one of our own, in language WE can understand -- but some of the news is dire!

A 'huge world of hurt' just waiting to happen to older retirees on meager pensions?
Medicare, STRS and you!
By Shirlee Zerkel
April 3, 2007
If you have 40 credits in Social Security or in Medicare taxes, it will make a big difference when you are 65. You would then be eligible for Medicare A at no cost and so will your spouse. Do you receive a yearly summary notice every fall from Social Security? It should state on the left side of the information that you are eligible for Medicare A and also if you might be eligible for Social Security as well.
If you are over 65, please look at your Medicare Card at the bottom left. If you have both A and B, it will be stated. All of you who on STRS insurance have to purchase Medicare B. So all retirees will have Medicare B which is for medical (doctor, surgeons, and some tests and other services). Medicare A is for hospitalization.
By having 'real' Medicare A, you will be covered for hospitalization 100% after the deductible of $992 (for 2007). That deductible amount is sent to STRS insurance. Then if you have the Plus Plan, You must pay the first $500 a year STRS deductible, so then you will pay a total of $598.40 for that hospital stay.
If you have the STRS comprehensive hospital coverage, first a $500 deductible will be paid by you and then you will have to pay 20% of the entire hospital bill until you hit the Maximum out-of-pocket cost to you of $1,500. So with STRS comprehensive hospital coverage you will pay $2,000 for the same hospital stay. You will also have to use in network hospitals for their hospital coverage.
If you want to stay in the STRS health care system for prescription drugs and the supplemental, you will also have to sign up and pay for Medicare Part B which is $93.50 a month for 2007. This you pay quarterly to Medicare unless you are eligible for a small Social Security pension and then the cost of Part B will be taken out of the SS check. As it stands at the present time, the Basic Plan with STRS is not a good one to have with Medicare A and B because after Medicare pays their part, you would never have enough expenses, unless real tragedy hit, to go over the $1,500 deductible that STRS has.
If you were 65 this year and on Medicare A and B and STRS Plus with a $500 deductible, your premiums would total $160 a month -- $93.50 for Part B and $67 for STRS. Medicare usually pays 80% of what is reasonable and customary. The Medicare determination is all that the provider can expect to receive and then STRS is supposed to pay 80% of what is left after Medicare pays. You see then that STRS is paying very little of the health care for the 65 and over retiree who has both Medicare A and B.
A retiree, age 65 and over, who receives their Part A coverage from STRS, will pay the same premiums to STRS and will also pay the $93.50 for Part B. Same monthly premium costs as those on Medicare A and B but with less coverage! One problem is that you have to use in-network providers and that can be a real headache sometimes because a patient can not control that all medical persons on his case are in the network. When STRS covers the bills for those not on Medicare Part A, STRS is paying almost all of a retiree's hospital stay. Large outgo of health care funds! But I do not recommend taking it away from the retirees!
Now for the really bad news if STRS were to stop health care coverage. We on Medicare A and B would still have something. But Mr. Russell at STRS feels being on Medicare is not good in the future either. Mr. Russell stated: "I should point out that Medicare is currently predicting insolvency before STRS Ohio."
But the many retirees who never paid into Medicare will be a 'huge world of hurt'. They will have nothing! If STRS had ended health coverage this year, retirees on STRS insurance would have had to pay $410 per month for Part A and at minimum $29 for Part D. That total would be $532 for Part A, B, and D for each member alone. That does include the spouse. That cost also does not cover a supplemental to help with what Medicare does not cover. This would include all who retired before 1986 or '87 and many who retired after that date as well and some who are still teaching. Many of the thousands of retirees that this could happen to probably do not even receive $800 in pension benefits, as they retired years ago. This should not happen to them! They will have no way to cover this huge increase in cost. They are dependent on STRS for this coverage; STRS should not leave them uncovered.

AG Dann asks 3 PUCO officials to resign: nominations done in secret

3 PUCO officials asked to resign
Their nominations violated Sunshine Law, Dann says
Columbus Dispatch, April 4, 2007
Alan Johnson
Attorney General Marc Dann has asked three members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to resign, saying they were illegally nominated in secret.

All three were appointed by former Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican; if they leave, Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, could name a majority of the powerful five-member board, which regulates electricity, gas, telephone, water and commercial transportation.

If they don't resign, Dann said last night that he is prepared to file a "quo warranto" with the Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus seeking to force them to quit.

"That's an action to remove somebody who is not properly holding office," Dann said. "We already have a draft of it."

Those asked to resign are PUCO Chairman Alan R. Schriber and Commissioners Ronda Hartman Fergus and Valerie A. Lemmie. Dann said their appointments were "tainted" by a nominating process that violated the state's open meetings law.

Dann also informed Strickland that the recent nomination and his subsequent appointment of Paul Centolella is invalid and must be redone.

Donald L. Mason, the fifth PUCO member, was appointed by Taft in 2003, outside the three-year statute of limitations to challenge his appointment, Dann spokeswoman Michelle Gatchell said.

The appointments were improper, Dann said, because the special 12-member PUCO Nominating Council that recommends four people to the governor to fill vacancies met behind closed doors and voted by secret ballot. He said both violate the state's Open Meetings Act, also known as the Sunshine Law. That act requires decisions by public bodies to be made in open meetings.

"They (the commission members) haven't done anything wrong, and we're not suggesting that they have," Dann said. "But public-meetings laws are there for a reason.

"Their appointment was tainted. …The governor's appointment does not cure the taint from the nominating council."

Dann said the problem came to light after his Feb. 28 letter in which he warned Ohio State University Board of Trustees that secret ballots on public issues should be "strictly avoided" because they violate "both the letter and intent" of the Open Meetings Act.

He said the PUCO nominating process was brought to his attention by Duane W. Luckey, a lawyer in charge of his office's public utilities section.The current procedure for nominating PUCO members was developed in the 1980s to cure what was seen as a politicized process for picking state regulators.

Currently, the majority of the PUCO members are either Republicans or independents. The resignations would allow Strickland to quickly name four members to the commission, which affects everyday lives with decisions on how much utilities can charge customers.

Contacted late yesterday, Schriber wouldn't comment on Dann's resignation request. He said he had not been contacted directly by the attorney general or his staff.

Schriber said even if he and his fellow commissioners are forced to resign, hundreds of regulatory decisions they have made would not be invalidated.

"I believe we would be acting de facto," he said, meaning that all commission actions would be considered legal and binding.

Dann agreed: "This would have been a much tougher decision had it resulted in voiding four years worth of decision-making."

Thomas C. Green, chairman of the nominating council, told The Dispatch that while he doesn't consider the process illegal or improper, he will comply with Dann's request.

"There was no intent to violate the law," he said. "Clearly, we are allowed to talk about personnel matters in an executive session.

"In order to arrive at the four names, we write them down on a piece of paper and vote on them to see if we have consensus. Then we vote on the four names in public.

"We don't consider that a secret ballot," Green said.

He added, "I'm not about to challenge it. We'll do what they want to be done."

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the governor's office received a letter on Monday from Dann's office regarding his recent appointment of Centolella. He was to replace Judy Jones on the commission on April 12.

Now that nomination and appointment must be redone.

"We're working under the assumption that the Public Utilities Commission will fully comply with the attorney general's determination," Dailey added.

FLASHBACK-3 years ago An STRS election for an "active" and ORTA endorsed him!

Isn't it interesting that ORTA backed an "active" educator STRS Board candidate (John Lazares) three years ago BUT failed to endorse Dr. Leone (as a retiree candidate for STRS Board) in his bid just one year later? Guess they didn't feel it proper to endorse Dennis...but they did feel it proper to endorse Neil Johnson and Dave Speas, didn't they? Maybe they can explain that one as I surely can't. Maybe they also can explain why they haven't publicly supported the past two years of Dennis's STRS reform motions which are now in place as policy at STRS.......don't hold your breath in anticipation! John [Curry]
Ballots in the mail for STRS board seat contest
Canton Repository, April 1, 2004
Copley Columbus Bureau chief
COLUMBUS — Web sites have been set up, e-mail messages sent, mailboxes stuffed and endorsements sought in a grassroots election campaign that is connected to neither Democrats nor Republicans.
In this statewide campaign, there will be no hanging chads or electronic voting. Observed by the Secretary of State’s office and witnesses for the candidates, ballots will be counted by hand.
The campaign includes accusations of undue influence and concerns about voter fraud. Candidate qualifications have been questioned, and being the incumbent may not be a good thing.
More than 130,000 people want to influence the outcome, but will not be allowed to vote.
Such is the process for selecting a member to the board of the State Teachers Retirement System, the group that overseas a public pension fund worth millions.
In one of the most competitive races for the board in recent memory, incumbent and board chairman Eugene E. Norris of Columbus is opposed by John K. Lazares of Lebanon.
Ballots, half with Norris’ name first and the other half with Lazares’ name first, will be sent out today to 301,512 active members of the retirement system. Ballots are due at the retirement system by 4:30 p.m. May 3.
An elaborate security plan is intended to ensure the accuracy of the vote. A single ballot on special stock paper can be returned only in the envelope with a special security liner sent to each voter. The envelopes will be tracked but remain unopened as they are returned. A courier will bring them daily from the Columbus post office to the retirement system headquarters, where they will be locked in a room until they are counted May 8.
Damon Asbury, executive director of the retirement system, said there has never been a challenge to the process in the past. Because of concerns raised by Lazares supporters, however, he has added a second person to oversee the count and securing of ballots.
Norris has the backing of the state’s two major teacher unions, the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
Lazares has the backing of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, the largest organization representing retired members of the retirement system, and Concerned Ohio Retired Teachers, an activist group that split from the retirees association during last year’s turmoil about spending practices at the pension fund.
Retirees, who number about 135,000 retirement system members, cannot vote in the election under the rules for selecting the board. Only members who are “active” are allowed to vote because the position Norris and Lazares seek represents them.
That hasn’t kept retirees from helping out Lazares, who they say is needed on the board to protect their interests. They have been campaigning for him in all of Ohio’s 88 counties — contacting teachers, principals and superintendents at school, home and via e-mail.
They want Lazares to do the same thing with the pension fund that he is credited with doing for the Warren County Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities agency in 2000 and 2001, when it was wracked by allegations of lax financial and management practices — turn it around.
Both candidates have been speaking to groups across the state whenever they get the chance. But both said it’s next to impossible to campaign in every corner of Ohio.
Retirees want Norris replaced because of his link to board decisions that they say led to excessive spending, increases in health-care costs and reductions in their benefits.
Thomas J. Mooney, federation president, said the two candidates sparked “a lively discussion” at the union’s recent annual meeting. But he said Norris’ experience dealing with health-care issues became a critical factor in getting the union’s endorsement.
Mooney said Norris provided a “more constructive look at the future,” while Lazares dwelt on the past.
Norris and Lazares both claim they can best represent the needs of active and retired teachers, though neither has been a classroom teacher for years.
Both say they can restore confidence in a system that was shattered by revelations of spending on staff bonuses, artwork and a $100 million building while the pension fund’s portfolio plummeted. In the last year, the portfolio has rebounded significantly, changes in internal policies have been made and the system’s former executive director was replaced.
That’s not good enough for Lazares backers who have called on the entire board to be replaced.
When Canton teacher Hazel Sidaway retired last year, retirees got part of their wish with the selection of Robert S. Brown, an Ohio State University professor, as her replacement. Brown and Lazares both ran in the last election but lost to current board member Michael N. Billirakis, an official with the National Education Association.

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

John K. Lazares
Current positions: Superintendent, Warren County Educational Services Center; Superintendent, Warren County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities; Superintendent, Kings Local School District.
Previous positions: Assistant superintendent, high school and junior high school principal, and teacher.
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Miami (of Ohio) University 1974 and 1975.
Endorsements: Ohio Retired Teachers Association; Concerned Ohio Retired Teachers
Campaign Web site: None

Eugene E. Norris
Current position: Project coordinator for ESL Programs for South-Western City Schools.
Previous positions: Teacher-consultant on loan to the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Board of Regents; Spanish, English and social studies teacher, South-Western City Schools.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Central State University, 1970; master’s degree Ohio State University, 1990.
Endorsements: Ohio Education Association; Ohio Federation of Teachers
Campaign Web site:
Only a blog.......
I know there are a heck of a lot of smart people out there because I hear from many on a regular basis. I'm sure, too, that people generally understand that I do not have the time it would take to research everything I post on my blog; if I tried to do that, I wouldn't have time to keep it up. I just do the best I can and I know that those who contribute to this blog do the same. By the same token, I am not aware of any instances where someone would deliberately attempt to put out false and misleading information. I am also convinced that people are smart enough to check out anything that appears in print -- ANYWHERE -- if it doesn't sound right to them -- or even if it does sound right. Errors are made from time to time, as we are all human and mistakes happen. I don't know of anyone who isn't eager to correct any errors that are pointed out to them, myself included. Thanks for reading my blog; I know it's not perfect, but it's the best I can do. After all is said and done, just keep in mind that it's only a blog -- no more, no less. Thanks -- KBB 4/4/07

AP: Cost of public pensions rising for taxpayers

Associated Press
April 3, 2007
CLEVELAND - The amount of tax money spent on public pensions in Ohio and guaranteeing retirement payments for government workers increased by nearly a third over the past six years, a newspaper reported.
The cost of supporting the pension funds for state and local government workers will be $3.5 billion this year, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported. The number is expected to rise in the coming years when more baby boomers retire.
Government retirees in Ohio earned a median pension of $21,804, according to an analysis by the newspaper. The average for private sector workers, including Social Security, was $18,390.
"States like Ohio offer far better plans than anything that is available in the private sector," said E.J. McMahon, a pension expert at the Manhattan Institute in New York, which analyzes government policy.
Ohio's public pension systems generally require workers to contribute 10 percent of their salaries to the funds. Taxpayers contribute between 14 percent and 25 percent.
The rest comes from investment earnings.
The systems also allow some government workers to retire earlier.
Police officers can take home a pension at age 48 if they have 25 years of service. Others can retire with a full pension after 30 years of work.
Critics say the plans are too generous.
Elected officials who can control the pension plans have little incentive to do that if they receive those benefits, said Steve Frates, president of the Center for Government Analysis in Newport Beach, Calif.
"Instead of people worrying about the pensions in the government system, we should look at ways of making all of the pension systems fair," said Laura Ecklar, a spokeswoman for the State Teachers Retirement System.
Unlike private pensions, the public pensions are guaranteed and include cost of living increases. Taxpayers would cover the costs if a public pension plan runs out of money.
Many private companies have abandoned pensions to save money.
The number of companies with guaranteed retirement plans fell from more than 112,000 to fewer than 29,000 over the 20-year period ending in 2005.
But the benefit can attract workers to government jobs.
"Some were very frank with us and told us that they were interested in the pension," said Dennis Will, a former Elyria police captain who interviewed applicants for department jobs.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Plain Dealer: Public workers' pensions growing

Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 1, 2007
Coming Monday: Double dipping. Public workers' pensions growing
The chasm between haves and have-nots continues to grow Divide with private sector retirees growing faster than ever Private workers supplement benefit while losing their own
John Caniglia and Joan Mazzolini
Plain Dealer Reporters
That bus driver bringing you to work, the garbage collector picking up your weekly trash and the clerk taking your money for a dog license have something you likely lack: a guaranteed retirement.
And you are paying for it.
State and local governments will use your taxes to pump $3.5 billion into public pension funds in Ohio this year, an increase of about 30 percent since 2001. That works out to Ohio's 11 million residents each shelling out $318.
These residents are paying for something they do not receive in their jobs. The chasm separating Ohio's retirees -- those with guaranteed government pensions and those without -- is growing faster than ever.
Ask one of the 14,000 salaried Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employees who recently learned their company is phasing out defined benefits, which guaranteed them pension checks for as long as they lived. Instead, they will get 401(k) funds that rise and fall on the whims of the stock market and can run dry long before the workers die.
Or ask Mark Granakis, 57, who spent 32 years working as a pipefitter at LTV Corp. Despite the company's promises over the years that it was putting away money for workers' pensions, bankruptcy freed LTV of the burden.
Granakis' $1,400 a month is 70 percent less than the $4,700 a month he had long expected.
"I had to go back to work because I wanted to eat," Granakis said.
Taxpayers question why government workers make out so much better in their retirement years, even retiring as young as 48. And because most government pensions are based on a worker's best three earning years, workers can inflate their pension checks for decades by stepping up for overtime in those three years.
Then, like Social Security, most public pensions are guaranteed against inflation, with cost-of-living increases for life.
Unlike private sector workers, government employees need not fear that their pension plans will go broke: The funds are guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution, and you, the taxpayers, are the guarantors.
For comparison, private pensions vary, with some companies offering generous plans and others nothing. What's clear, though, is that many companies have abandoned the pension business to be more competitive in the global economy.
The number of private companies providing guaranteed retirement plans - those with specific check amounts for the life of the retiree - tumbled 74 percent from 1985 to 2005, from more than 112,000 to fewer than 29,000.
And taxpayers counting on Social Security regularly read news stories questioning whether that fund will be sound.
Laura Ecklar, a spokeswoman for the State Teachers Retirement System, said the answer is not to criticize the public pension as generous but to elevate the benefits for private sector workers.
"Instead of people worrying about the pensions in the government system, we should look at ways of making all of the pension systems fair," Ecklar said.
But taxpayers do worry about the government pensions. As more baby-boomers retire from the public sector in the next 10 to 20 years, the amounts cities and states pour into public pension plans are expected to soar, to make up for shortfalls in the accounts.
Public versus private:
The pay-outs differ
Last year, Ohio's state and local government retirees earned a median pension of $21,804, according to a Plain Dealer analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The median for workers in the private sector, with Social Security added in, was $18,390.
Nationally, retired government employees earned a median pension of $24,668; their private counterparts earned about $20,483.
"States like Ohio offer far better plans than anything that is available in the private sector," said E.J. McMahon, a pension expert at the Manhattan Institute in New York, a think-tank that analyzes government policy.
Examples abound, from schools to garages to offices.
A Cleveland elementary school principal earns about $80,000 a year. After 30 years, the principal could retire with about $52,800 a year.
A Cleveland Catholic school principal makes less, about $60,000 a year, and would receive a much smaller retirement check. The package includes a savings account built mainly by the principal, with the school contributing about 2.5 percent of the principal's salary. That's less than the 14 percent that public school districts contribute. The Catholic school principal would also receive Social Security.
A mechanic who works for the Lorain County engineer earns $37,400 a year and builds a pension that would pay him two-thirds of that each year for life. A private mechanic at a garage in Elyria makes about the same, without the guaranteed retirement.
A secretary for Cuyahoga County earns $32,000 a year. Her counterpart at a Beachwood firm earns $40,000 but lacks a guaranteed pension.
Not all government workers come out ahead in retirement. County Prosecutor Bill Mason earns $118,000 this year, overseeing 411 employees. A partner at Jones Day, the international law firm based in Cleveland, earns about $600,000 a year, as well as generous retirement contributions from the firm.
The perks and other benefits attract candidates for public sector jobs. For years, Elyria police Capt. Dennis Will interviewed applicants who said they wanted the public sector jobs, partly because of the pension.
"Some were very frank with us and told us that they were interested in the pension," said Will, now the Lorain County prosecutor. "We heard it often."
The increasing desire for a public pension appears to match the growing angst of taxpayers who pay for it.
The city of Cleveland paid about $106 million last year to the state's Public Employees Retirement System and the police and firefighters pension fund. Cleveland city schools paid more than $64 million to pension funds, records show. Those are tax dollars.
Willoughby-Eastlake schools pay about $7 million a year to pension funds, about 10 percent of the district's $72.8 million budget. To cut costs, officials began offering teachers eligible for retirement $70,000 in incentives to retire, including $40,000 in cash.
A teacher retiring in June would receive $8,000 from the district in January, the first of five yearly payments, said Cliff Reinhardt, the district's treasurer.
Since the program began about three years ago, the district has saved about $1 million a year, replacing the highly paid veteran teachers with cheaper but less experienced teachers.
Like most public schools, Willoughby-Eastlake pays 14 percent of teachers' salaries to the pension fund every year. "Fourteen percent of $70,000 - what a teacher with 30 years could make - is a lot more than 14 percent of $35,000, what a teacher with less experience would make," Reinhardt said. "This works out well for the teachers, and it works out well for us."
Rewarding public employees with better benefits, including pensions, health care, vacation and sick time, became institutionalized decades ago to entice people to jobs that often were lower paying.
Critics, such as McMahon from the Manhattan Institute, claim that union influences created the perks. But all public employees, whether union or not, enjoy the same benefits.
Steve Frates, the president of the Center for Government Analysis in Newport Beach, Calif., said only elected officials can rein in the plans. But elected officials have difficulty being objective about pensions if they receive the benefits, he said.
Proponents of government pensions downplay the contributions from taxpayers.
Keith Brainard, the research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, said employees' contributions and investments - not taxpayers - foot the largest part of the pension fund. Contributions by a government employer make up about 25 percent of the plan's assets. The rest is covered by employee contributions and investment earnings, he said.
Taxpayers on the hook
for the shortfalls
If public pension plans fail, taxpayers would be forced to bail them out.
Ohio's retirement systems are in better financial shape than those in other states. The five pension plans have about $31 billion in unfunded liabilities, the difference between the plan's assets on hand and liabilities to date.
More than half of that is from the State Teachers Retirement System, which is working to reduce its liabilities while maintaining health care for its retirees.
The plan said it has 76 percent of the assets needed to pay all benefits accrued by its members, even though the liabilities are not payable all at once.
States such as Oklahoma, Illinois and Pennsylvania are scrambling to fill holes in some of their public pension funds.
California's Public Employees Retirement System has assets of more than $183 billion and liabilities of more than $210 billion, causing taxpayers to fear that they will have to bail the plan out. In Illinois, the state's teachers' retirement plan has assets of $34 billion and liabilities of $56 billion.
Experts doubt Ohio's plans will struggle that much. But Ohio's cash-strapped school districts, cities and others are increasingly looking for ways to reduce the amount poured into public pension funds.
Dave Davis, The Plain Dealer news research director, contributed to this story
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