Saturday, April 28, 2007

Senator Sherrod Brown to Tom Curtis re: the GPO/WEP

From Sen. Sherrod Brown, April 27, 2007
Subject: Reply from Senator Sherrod Brown

Dear Ms. Curtis:
Thank you for expressing your opposition to the pension offset and windfall elimination provision(s) of the Social Security Act. I am pleased to be a cosponsor of S. 206, the Social Security Fairness Act, legislation that would repeal these unfair provisions.
From your letter, I understand you are aware that under the windfall elimination provision, retirees receiving benefits from a public pension fund may be subject to a reduction in their Social Security benefits. Under the pension offset, if you are a retired government worker and you qualify for a spousal Social Security benefit based on your spouse's employment record, you may not receive 100% of your earned benefit. The pension offset law reduces or entirely eliminates a Social Security spousal benefit when the surviving spouse is eligible for a pension from a local, state, or federal government job that was not covered by Social Security. I believe these provisions are patently unfair to individuals who earn their Social Security benefits and receive a pension. Social Security benefits should not be reduced based on other pension income.
Please be assured I will continue to push for prompt consideration of S. 206 and will support it should it come up for a vote. Thank you again for writing.
Sherrod Brown

Some words of wisdom.....

From Molly Janczyk, April 28, 2007
Subject: Debate: Tom Mooney
I heard a great phrase in the Dems debate the other night:
"The minute we say us vs. them, we lose the ability to communicate."
Reminds me of Tom Mooney............always going back to the table determined to find a way with his motto:
"What will it take for us to resolve this issue so we can move on to the next issue as we have so much to lose."
What an enormous loss for us of this great mediator who recognized there is only one way to settle issues: sit down and work thru it with both sides willing to listen and bend where they can. He could talk to anyone, discuss with anyone and leave them feeling he heard them and resolutions could and would be found. He never gave up always keeping the big picture in view. It was never about him and always about educators regardless of some past harsh words exchanged during campaigns, etc. We went at it a couple of times during elections '04 and '05 and yet when time came to get busy for educators, he was always open and receptive to working together where we could and never even referenced past criticisms exchanged understanding it was political. If only all members of all organizations could sit with complete open minds and simply settle misunderstandings and differences and compromise on solutions to every issue that arises, we all would be better for it.
What Tom did was give us "HOPE" that we could all do better.
I believe it was Nancy Boomhower who said it best: "If we cannot find ways to work together, how irresponsibly reckless we are for retirees."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Medicare's future

Toledo Blade, April 27, 2007
The Medicare mirror
THE latest warning on Medicare funding should be a reminder to everyone that the fiscal crisis facing the signature health-care program for senior citizens cannot be solved separately from that of health care in general.
And, with the first of 78 million Baby Boomers nearing retirement age, Medicare's plight is only going to get worse.
But we already know that. What we haven't figured out yet is how to contain the disturbing escalation of health-care costs, which may have slowed some but still seem to be growing at about 7 percent year after year.
One thing seems certain: The Bush Administration has no workable solution and is content to let the problem slide into the lap of whoever occupies the White House next.
The Democratically controlled Congress has other ideas, but so far a hard-line group of Republicans in the Senate, including Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, have managed to bottle up useful reforms, most recently a measure that would allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies.
Having put Big Pharma on the government subsidy dole with the lavishly expensive Part D benefit, these GOP druggies - addicted to industry campaign contributions - have done nothing to solve and everything to exacerbate Medicare's fiscal problems.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Medicare now is overpaying private insurance companies by more than $10 billion a year through optional managed-care programs that were supposed to reduce costs but instead have boosted spending an average of 12 percent per patient. These so-called "Advantage" plans cover 20 percent of Medicare recipients.
With that kind of witless management, it's no wonder that the increase in Medicare costs over the past 30 years has mirrored the overall rise in American health-care expenditures.
A report this week projected that the Medicare program will hit red ink in 2019 - just 12 more years.
If Congress and the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue put off action until the last minute, the solution for bolstering the program most likely will have to be a stunning tax increase or benefit cut, or perhaps even a painful combination of the two. More moderate remedies could be had by acting sooner, which is certainly the preferable course.
It's probably too much to expect that these problems be hashed out in the course of the 2008 presidential campaign. Political campaigns don't often provide successful incubation for solid policy ideas.
Nothing, however, is to be gained by delaying what needs to be done to place Medicare on a solid footing once again.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Medicine and the Drug Industry, a Morality Tale

"All this mutual back-scratching would be fine if patients’ interests were indeed being served. But ample data indicates quite the reverse. Patients, after all, are the ones who pay for expensive drugs when cheaper would do as well, and the ones who swallow dangerous drugs nudged to market by their manufacturers."
April 24, 2007
New York Times

It was in 1949 that Elvin Stakman, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, issued the membership their marching orders: “Science cannot stop while ethics catches up.”

And sure enough, from bombs to clones, the ethicists have generally kept to the rear of the scientific parade: they are the ones with the big brooms trying to restore order after the floats and the elephants go by.

Those brooms sweep slowly. Often, by the time the ethicists finish laying out facts and weighing relevant moral values, the worst of any given crisis has passed. But recently, those who work in medicine have moved closer to the fray: they staff acute-care hospitals and monitor events in real time, aiming for a little less retrospective philosophy and a little more damage control.

In this proactive spirit Howard Brody, a medical ethicist, has brought his discipline’s tools to the relationship between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry. This problematic tangle of moral compromise (or triumphant health-promoting collaboration, depending on your point of view) has inspired several polemics by physicians in recent years, all of them straightforward indictments of the pharmaceutical industry and its for-profit webs.

Dr. Brody is also a physician, but he aims for the measured cadences of the ethicist instead, calmly laying out the relevant facts and then reasoning from basic principles to determine whether the medicine-pharmaceutical relationship, as it stands now, is an ethical one or not.

That Dr. Brody manages to deliver a hundred-odd pages of determinedly objective analysis before he, too, lets the righteous indignation roll should not really be called a failure of methodology: even as he carefully lays out the facts in this impressively comprehensive book, those facts begin to speak damningly for themselves.

The small-time operations that grew up into modern medicine and Big Pharma joined together back in the late 19th century, allied in the name of scientific medicine against a variety of dubious health-care entrepreneurs. The A.M.A. actually called the early pharmaceutical companies the “ethical” drug makers, to distinguish them from unscrupulous patent-medicine peddlers.

Over time, this casual alliance has been reinforced with such complex and often invisible bonds that, in Dr. Brody’s title metaphor, medicine and pharma are now “hooked” like two pieces of Velcro, tethered by a million barbs and as dependent on each other as any addicts are on their substance of choice.

Dr. Brody systematically analyzes the levels of connection, from the lowly drug salesman buying lunch for a roomful of medical students (future customers all) to the lucrative contracts and patents that simultaneously fuel medical research, fill corporate coffers and give us, as the industry doggedly and quite correctly points out, dozens of truly miraculous life-saving drugs.

Many of these interactions are probably now familiar to most readers: the omnipresent logo-bearing trinkets festooning medical offices, the free samples of the latest, most expensive drugs, the “ask your doctor” television ads.

Less familiar may be some of industry’s other friendly overtures: the lavish junkets and cash rewards for some “high-prescribing” doctors; the subtle manipulations of research data; the way-too-generous financing of postgraduate medical education; the very cozy relationship with the Food and Drug Administration and its physician consultants; and a casually Orwellian interference with the average physician’s prescription pad.

A drug salesman recalls for Dr. Brody the time his company asked a local doctor to evaluate various sales presentations for a particular drug: “He’d been selected because our data showed that he was a relatively low prescriber. ...Basically, the company was willing to bet $500 or $750 that if he heard the same drug pitch all day, by the end of the day he’d be so brainwashed that he could not possibly prescribe any other drug but ours.”

All this mutual back-scratching would be fine if patients’ interests were indeed being served. But ample data indicates quite the reverse. Patients, after all, are the ones who pay for expensive drugs when cheaper would do as well, and the ones who swallow dangerous drugs nudged to market by their manufacturers.

Many individual problematic drugs make an appearance here. Chloromycetin, a toxic antibiotic from the 1950s, was relentlessly promoted by its manufacturer for routine use until the day its patent expired. (Still available in generic form, it is now used only as a last resort.) Thalidomide never caused an epidemic of birth defects in this country, as it did in Germany, only because a single stubborn F.D.A. officer was dissatisfied with the drug’s safety profile, despite the manufacturer’s repeated assurances that everything was fine.

The epitaph of the recently withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, whose virtues were subtly spun to the medical community in prestigious research journals, is still being written in litigation around the country.

“Research that is driven by marketing rather than by scientific aims would seem, in the end, to be low-quality research,” Dr. Brody comments mildly about the Vioxx fiasco.

His overall conclusion is similarly low-key: “A profession is not just a way of making money; it’s a form of public trust. ...Medicine has for many decades now been betraying this public trust.”

It is not a particularly surprising conclusion, and, in fact, there is relatively little in this book to surprise anyone familiar with the territory. Rather than new material, it provides a meticulously referenced compendium of all the relevant history and commentary (including, for full disclosure, excerpts from one of this reviewer’s columns in this newspaper).

Its breadth translates into a lack of depth in some areas, especially the final section, in which Dr. Brody tries to outline a feasible solution to the mess. His suggestions are cogent but a little skimpy, given that absent an act of God, it will probably take an act of Congress to pry medicine and industry apart someday, preferably as part of thoroughgoing health care reform.

Still, for a detailed overview of this very jagged terrain, if not for a map of the pathway out, a better general guide than this one is hard to imagine.

Abigail Zuger, a regular contributor, is a physician in Manhattan.

Dann planning more visibility for outside counsel contracts

by John O'Brien

Attorney General Marc Dann
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new hire in his office will help reform the process used when Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann awards contracts to outside counsel.

Columbus attorney and former state senator Ben Espy, also formerly a member of the U.S. Air Force is Dann's new Executive Attorney General.

Dann said Espy will help institute a transparent process for awarding outside counsel contracts.
"I am confident that he has the integrity, courage and legal experience needed to take on the critically important task of instituting a transparent, accountable and objective process for awarding outside counsel contracts that will fundamentally change the way business is done by the state and save the taxpayers millions of dollars," Dann said.

Dann says that in the past two months his office has saved more than $1 million in bond counsel fees by asking law firms to bid on the work, and he saved another $4 million when he negotiated a fee reduction with the firm that represented Ohio in a case against AOL/Time Warner. The settlement was worth $144 million.

"That is just a preview of the savings we'll generate when Sen. Espy and other members of my staff fully implement the new outside counsel plan this summer," Dann said.

Dann's words coincide with the Monday release of the American Tort Reform Association's transparency survey, which was conducted in five states -- including Ohio. The numbers overwhelmingly showed that those surveyed in Ohio agree with more transparency.

Espy will also supervise revenue recovery and collections enforcement and will also serve as an external liaison to mayors and local governments.

A Moose on the Loose

April 24, 2007
For Wyeth, A Moose On The Loose


This will not please Bob Essner.

A union is targeting big pharma for contributing to the nation's health care problems and, to make its point, has created a Healthcare Hustler list that singles out various companies. This time around, one of the awards goes to Wyeth.

And so Working America, an AFL-CIO affiliate that wants to underscore the ongoing controversy over obtaining lower-cost meds from Canada, will have a Canadian moose at the Hyatt Hotel in Morristown NJ, where Wyeth will hold its annual meeting on Thursday.

Wyeth now? The union proposed a shareholder resolution calling for Wyeth to conduct a report on the impact of its policy on reducing supplies of its drugs to Canadian wholesalers and pharmacies that sell to US citizens who cross the border to make purchases.

The moose will point the way from New Jersey to Canada.

"People need to know that the mess that is our health care system is not the result of a natural disaster," says Karen Nussbaum, Working America director. "This is one way of drawing attention to the fact that companies like Wyeth have pushed policies and made decisions that boost their profits at the expense of other Americans."

There could be an interesting epilogue: There's another shareholder proposal concerning Wyeth's animal-testing policy

You can read more about this distinguished award here;
The shareholder proposal is on page 79 of the Wyeth

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Me on Webcasting

I attended the STRS Board meeting last week and was present for the discussion on webcasting. Since I have difficulty hearing in the Board room, I can't trust everything I 'think' I hear in there. But if I got the gist of this discussion correctly, my take is that there are other issues (in addition to how much demand there is for it) that seriously need to be considered before taking the leap to webcasting. We have all seen what the media, tabloids, political campaigns, adversarial parties and Internet websites such as You Tube can do with a snippet of video taken out of context. We just need to be careful what we ask for. This issue needs and deserves a good airing.
Kathie Bracy
April 24, 2007

John Curry re: Governor Strickland's Executive Order on 1.8.07 and 'accessible government'

From John Curry, 23 Apr 2007
I wonder if Dr. Asbury informed the Board, during last Wednesday's discussion re. broadcasting STRS meetings, that Governor Strickland issued an Executive Order (on 1.8.07) which encouraged presenting board meetings live or recorded on the Internet! Below is a letter sent to Dr. Asbury on Jan. 10 of this year. I wonder if some of the Board members were even aware of this Executive Order?......I doubt it!
It appears as though the majority of the Board feels there is not an interest in this movement to produce transmittal of said minutes. They appear to not understand that it does not need to entail both audio AND VIDEO....just audio. They also do not appear to be aware that our Governor has requested it!
This could be placed on the STRS website so that a user could click on it to hear the proceedings. Audio production would be a lot cheaper than video + audio.... even less than monies spent during that one year at Christmas time for poinsettias to decorate the STRS building! John
Below is a copy of Governor Strickland's Executive Order with the highlighted text pertaining to broadcasting of board meetings followed by my letter to Damon on 1/10/07:
1.8.07 - Strickland Takes Oath of Office; Issues Executive Order Tightening Ethics Rules
Columbus, Ohio – Ohio Governor Ted Strickland today performed his first official action, immediately after he and Lt. Governor Lee Fisher took the oath of office, by signing an Executive Order to establish new ethics requirements for himself, his staff, cabinet agencies and state boards and commissions.
The Executive Order will require that Strickland and his staff decline virtually all gifts, excepting token gifts. The Order also requires every state department and agency to appoint a chief ethics officer to insure that staff is educated about ethics requirements, and calls for an anonymous reporting system for possible ethics violations.
The Executive Order requires a process to be established for companies wanting to do business with the state to certify in writing that they understand and will abide by this order and Ohio ethics and conflict of interest laws. Finally, the order requires government agencies or departments to put in writing and make available to the public reasons for awarding no-bid contracts.
"Recent scandals in Columbus have created the perception that decisions are made to reward political friends instead of making decisions that are best for Ohio," Strickland said. "The people of Ohio need to have faith in their government, and this first Executive Order is the first step in strengthening their faith."
Under the order, the only gifts Strickland and staff will be permitted to accept will be from: close family members, personal friends who are not lobbyists, who have no contracts with the State, and who do not receive grants from the State; individuals or groups who present him or staff with an inexpensive, token gift such as a t-shirt, cap, mug, meal under $20 or lapel pin; and government officials from another state or country who offer gifts as a gesture of friendship to the people of Ohio.
The same requirements apply to directors and employees of cabinet agencies, and those employed or appointed on state boards and commissions. All accepted gifts will be in accordance with Ohio law, and will be fully disclosed.
In order for all state employees and vendors to know and understand the new ethics requirements, agency directors will designate a senior staff member to serve as a chief ethics officer who will work with the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Governor's Office to develop an Ethic's Education program within the next 60 days. An anonymous reporting system will be put in place to facilitate state employees and chief ethics officers reporting ethics violations.
"This order sends a clear message to all Ohioans that their government will answer to them, not special interests." Strickland said. "Let everyone know: it is no longer business as usual in Columbus, and we are all working together to make Ohio better."
The executive order also encourages all cabinet agencies and state boards and commissions to make public meetings more accessible, including presenting meetings live or recorded on the Internet.
"Ohioans deserve an open, honest and accessible government," Strickland said. "This executive order marks the beginning of an administration that is committed to giving Ohioans that government."
John Curry to Damon Asbury, January 10, 2007
Subject: Governor Strickland's Executive Order of 1.8.07
Just a few days ago our new Governor issued an Executive Order (1.8.07) which primarily dealt with tightening governmental ethics rules, but also dealt with timely electronic transmittal of governmental board meetings. I quote from text of this executive order of Jan. 8, 2007 ..."The executive order also encourages all cabinet agencies and state boards and commissions to make public meetings more accessible, including presenting meetings live or recorded on the Internet."
Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for receiving the recorded CD's of the audio portion of current Board meetings however..... I get the package of CD's approximately three weeks after the Board meeting is adjourned. It's kind of like (to use something that folks of our age are familiar with) getting your draft orders to report to Cincinnati, OH to take your Uncle Sam pre-induction physical in your mailbox three weeks after your scheduled appearance for the physical. It just isn't the same!
I am aware that the topic of a Board live video feed has been discussed and financial reasons were given as a reason not to proceed. What hasn't been thoroughly explored is the much cheaper audio (only) feed.... either live or delayed and presented to STRS stakeholders via a link on the STRS website. Many organizations and even some churches are now offering this service. This cost would be offset by the savings of not having to produce the many CD's (5 in my recent packet of the December Board meeting) and to mail them to those who have requested them. This packet cost us at least several bucks to produce and mail. Surely our IT department is capable of handling this task ("presenting audio feeds of Board meetings live or recorded on the Internet") that is now strongly recommended by our new Governor.
If the STRS can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a "study" from the Independent Fiduciary Services, Inc. that took in the neighborhood of two years to arrive I (and other retirees) feel that the STRS could part with a few "well-spent" dollars to come into compliance with what our new Governor is encouraging. This way, any STRS stakeholder or citizen who has access to the Internet can, in a timely fashion, hear discussion and decisions being made that will affect the futures of all STRS stakeholders. Many of these deserving people are unable to attend STRS Board meetings due to ill health, physical limitations, weather, finances, and/or are back to work (in my case) so that they can afford "affordable" healthcare insurance since the spousal subsidy has been eliminated.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
John Curry - an STRS retiree and a Proud CORE member

Lloyd Knudsen and Molly Janczyk on Webcasting

From Lloyd Knudsen, April 23, 2007
To all,
Now I read the OEA minutes that the STRS Board studied the Webcasting idea and doesn't think it's a great idea. How surprising!
When first proposed in a CORE/Damon meeting it was deemed too costly. Now that they've studied the idea and found out it's NOT too costly they think there is no demand for it. How surprising! STRS would do anything to keep being active teachers and retired teachers ONLY source of communication.
Now STRS is worried improper STRS images might be dispersed into the media. How ludicrous! What they really fear are the critical speaker comments and the questioning of board actions by board members getting out to teachers who might actually get unbiased, unfiltered information on their retirement system. Teachers might get a not-so-rosy picture of STRS then, huh? I think it might hurt those rosy STRS survey results.
The more things change at STRS the more they stay the same.
Lloyd Knudsen
From Molly Janczyk, 4.23.07
Let them know there is a demand for this thru calls, emails and petitions.

Lloyd Knudsen to STRS Board re: Webcasting

From Lloyd Knudsen, April 23, 2007 10:57 PM
Subject: Webcasting STRS meetings
Dear STRS Board Member,
I find it most distressing that the STRS Board is considering NOT doing a webcast of future monthly board meetings. As a retired member of two county RTA groups (Medina County and Summit County) I can assure you that Webcasting the monthly STRS meeting is of great importance to great numbers of RETIRED teachers.
I find it interesting that when Webcasting was first proposed, STRS officials deemed it "cost prohibitive." Now that the cost has been found to be reasonable we seem to be searching for other excuses not to offer this service to your members.
I believe STRS does a great job of providing member services. In this technological age Webcasting would be another important service you could provide your members that would be neither costly nor labor-intensive.
Please give greater thought to following Governor Strickland's directive of making public meetings more accessible to affected members.
All teachers need more information on THEIR retirement system than just a quarterly newsletter and web site postings from STRS. Thank you for listening.
Lloyd Knudsen

Monday, April 23, 2007

Damon explains the STRS scholarship

Damon Asbury to Kathie Bracy, April 23, 2007
Subject: RE: STRS scholarship?
Here is the information your requested concerning the STRS Ohio Scholarship offered to education students at Ohio’s public colleges and universities:
The STRS Ohio Teacher Education Scholarship Endowment
The STRS Ohio Teacher Education Scholarship Endowment was established December 1, 1995 by the Board of Trustees of The Ohio State University with a gift from STRS 75th, Inc., to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS). STRS 75th, Inc. was established in order to receive donations from members and friends of STRS Ohio in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of STRS Ohio. Contributors were advised that any excess monies would be donated to Ohio colleges in the form of scholarships for students preparing for a teaching career.
STRS 80th, Inc. was established in order to receive donations from members and friends of STRS Ohio in celebration of the 80th Anniversary of STRS Ohio. Contributors were advised once again that excess monies would be given to the STRS Ohio Teacher Education Scholarship Endowment fund that was established in 1995.
The contributions to both the 75th and the 80th funds generated a combined gift of $252,800 to be invested in the permanent endowment fund of The Ohio State University for the purpose of providing scholarships for students (undergraduate or graduates) preparing for teacher certification at any of the state universities in Ohio with a college, school or department of education.
Annual scholarship distribution is overseen by Education Deans of the public state universities, based on interest earned from the endowment. The amount increases annually to keep up with inflation when earning permit. The money is distributed annually to the state universities on a rotating basis. It is distributed in alphabetical order. When the rotation is complete it begins again.
Each institution is awarded the STRS Ohio scholarships according to policies and procedures of each separate institution. The minimum scholarship awarded to each student is $1,000, but each institution is encouraged to maximize the number of scholarships awarded. Each institution may publicize the awarding of the scholarship and provide appropriate stewardship to STRS Ohio.
Let me know if you need additional information.

From the mailbag.....

From a retiree, April 22, 2007
Subject: Your Blog
Hi Kathie,
I took some time to visit your blog and read the articles featured there most recently.
I can't believe that ORTA is shunning Dennis and refusing to show any pretense of support for his presence as an STRS Board Member. I had every hope that Ann Hanning could and would execute her responsibilities in an unbiased and open way, but what I am reading disgusts me. WHAT IN THE WORLD DID DENNIS DO IN HIS PAST LIFE TO DESERVE THIS RUDE, UNPROFESSIONAL TREATMENT?? Their treatment of him is inexcusable and intolerable in my book. I'm a lifetime member of ORTA, but I never thought my money would ever be used to support such shabby treatment among professionals, as I am now seeing from their present leadership. I am ashamed to be associated with such an organization. Obviously, "The Good Old Boys" politics is very much alive among ORTA'S leadership. How can they in good conscience, consider themselves professional leaders worthy of our support as knowledgeable retirees? Is this the new intrepretation of The American Democratic Way---bigotry, jealousy, untrustworthy, undermining, and lacking integrity and a conscience??

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Kathie Bracy to Damon Asbury: Scholarships highly commendable, but what about ORC 3307.15?

From Kathie Bracy, April 22, 2007
Subject: Fwd: STRS scholarship?
Damon --
What can you tell me about this scholarship? When was it created? Who initiated it, and who approved it? Where does the funding come from? How much is each scholarship worth? What is the total amount that has gone into the scholarships?
I am not against scholarships, by any means, but if this one comes from retiree funds without retiree knowledge or approval, I need to know how it complies with ORC 3307.15, particularly in view of the fact that STRS is officially supposed to be taking care of educators after their careers, not before. To me, scholarships are a totally separate issue; highly commendable and desirable, but only when handled properly, like everything else.
Kathie Bracy

[Click here to view column re: scholarships awarded recently at Youngstown State University. Scroll down almost 2/3 of the way to view current STRS scholarship award.]

RH Jones: Holding ORTA accountable

From RH Jones, April 22, 2007
Subject: ORTA accountable to membership
To all ORTA members:
The "leadership" at ORTA needs to be held accountable by the membership in succeeding to ignore the STRS Retired Board Representative, Dennis Leone.
ORTA has not initiated a single communication with Dr. Leone in his first 19-months of serving on the STRS board. In that period of time, Dr. Leone has been successful with five important motions for the interest of retirees. At no time did he get any support from the ORTA on any of them. And that is disgraceful --- this is my opinion.
ORTA may be happy that I am busy with spring chores and will not be e-mailing much for a while.

RHJones, Life Member of ORTA and a proud member of CORE

Kathie Bracy to Gary Russell: Who is privy to Caremark contracts?

From Kathie Bracy, April 22, 2007
Subject: Caremark contract: some questions
Gary --
While I did not receive a response from you to my e-mail (below) of 4/9/07, I did read your explanation to John Curry pertaining to an amendment to Ohio's Public Records law that gives PBMs a handy little hiding place when it comes to disclosure of certain information.
OK -- somebody at STRS is privy to the information in contracts with Caremark. Who? Or is STRS approving Caremark contracts without knowing their full contents? What assurance are we given that we are getting a better deal from Caremark than we would from other PBMs? How are we supposed to know we aren't being scammed? Where's the Sunshine?
Thank you.
Kathie Bracy
(Click here to view 4/9/07 e-mail to Gary Russell)
Gary Russell's 4/18/07 response to John Curry)

Blogger Commentary

After reading Jim Kimmel's letter below, I am reminded that Ann Hanning, Executive Director of ORTA, sat in the March CORE meeting while discussion was going on about possibly distributing Dennis Leone's STRS Report of March 2007, which was to have been published in the ORTA Spring Quarterly. She never said one word to object to the issue of distributing the report ahead of publication.
If there is a rule prohibiting such distribution before ORTA would accept a piece for publication, why didn't she say so? And why was Dr. Leone never TOLD about it? Thanks to ORTA's little rule (which I've never seen), many thousands of STRS retirees may never see the report, and may miss ever receiving critical information that could impact their very lives. Thanks, ORTA -- you really DO have your members' best interests at heart, don't you? By the way, we missed Ann at the April CORE meeting, though she did attend the STRS Board meeting that day.
Kathie Bracy
April 22, 2007

Jim Kimmel to ORTA: Lead, follow or......

From Jim Kimmel, April 22, 2007
Subject: An Open Letter to ORTA
Dear ORTA:
I just received another letter under your logo offering me some kind of insurance. This time it was "Long Term Care" from a company I had never heard of. I have also received offers for life insurance, optical and dental insurance (which my dentist said was not worth much) and several other things I do not want.
However, apart from the nuisance of receiving these "wonderful" benefit offers for retired teachers I do wonder how much ORTA makes for allowing the use of the logo. It implies that somehow ORTA has vetted these companies and that they are reliable and even specially set up for retired teachers and their families. It seems to me that this is about all ORTA is doing these days. And ORTA probably is paid for the use of member names as well!
My first question to you is: Are you being paid for the use of member names? If so how much and what is the money used for? What about payment for the ORTA logo, implying your approval?
My second question is: When are you going to DO SOMETHING besides sell insurance ? Like support Dr. Leone's ideas before the STRS Board? When was the last time an ORTA leader actually spoke at STRS meetings as a representative of ORTA ? To quote a former ORTA leader (said to me personally) "there are some things you can't do anything about." Not if all you do is try to sell insurance! Of course ORTA did find time to deny publication of Dr. Leone's article in your newsletter with bogus technicality never previously used or mentioned to Dr. Leone prior to submission. In fact, Dr. Leone had been in a meeting with many of the ORTA people the day before and no mention was made of this new policy -- you certainly had time to tell him then.
How utterly disappointing.
And by the way if you are being paid for these insurance endorsements and use of member names you owe someone some money -- I got the insurance ad in the mail but have not been a member for at least 3 years. I wonder how many other ex-members were on an inflated database sold to these companies. Please remove me from the mailing list or I will file a complaint with my local postmaster. And, as Lee Iococca used to say in his Chrysler commercials: "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!"
Lee disliked those who do nothing -- and so do I! So do many of my fellow STRS retirees!
James O. Kimmel, M.Ed
Proud CORE member
STRS retiree
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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