Friday, September 21, 2007

Letter of thanks to Rep. Oelslager, Sponsor, and Co-sponsors of HB 315

From Kathie Bracy, September 21, 2007
Subject: Thank you for your sponsorship of HB 315
To the Honorable W. Scott Oelslager and other Honorable Representatives included in this e-mail:
Dear Rep. Oelslager and others,
As the Sponsor and Co-sponsors of HB 315, I want to express my sincere thanks to all of you for sponsoring this initiative. Knowing there are legislators such as you who recognize the needs of Ohio's retired educators enough to support legislation that, if passed, will alleviate one of their greatest fears -- losing their health care when they need it most -- is most gratifying to those of us who are affected.
You already know the dire condition of America's and Ohio's health care. Passage of HB 315 will go a long way toward keeping thousands of Ohioans alive and healthy and off the state's welfare and Medicaid rolls.
I know I speak for many others when I say thank you. Now the real work is ahead of us -- garnering support from many corners to get this bill passed. You can be sure that my fellow retired educators and I will be working hard on this.
Kathie Bracy
Retired Ohio teacher and member of STRS, OEA-R and ORTA
Proud member of Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE)
(Address, etc.)
E-mail addresses for all of the above legislators:

STRS report on September Board actions and discussions

From STRS, September 21, 2007
Subject: [News] September Board News Details Retirement Board Actions and Discussions
This week, the State Teachers Retirement Board held its monthly meeting. Following the regularly scheduled meetings, a report titled "Board News" is posted on the STRS Ohio Web site, as well as mailed to a number of members and education organization representatives who have requested it. As a member of STRS Ohio with an e-mail address on file, you will also receive this report each month. The September report follows.
On Sept. 18, 2007, Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) reintroduced the STRS Ohio-proposed health care legislation. House Bill 315 is co-sponsored by Reps. Matthew Barrett (D-Amherst), Barbara Boyd (D-Cleveland Hts.), Edna Brown (D-Toledo), Kathleen Chandler (D-Kent), Steve Dyer (D-Green), Clyde Evans (R-Rio Grande), William Healy
(D-Canton), Jim Hughes (R-Columbus), Matt Lundy (D-Elyria), Mark Okey
(D-Carrollton), William Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Matt Szollosi (D-Oregon), Brian Williams (D-Akron) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights).
This bill carries with it the support of the Health Care Advocates for STRS (HCA) -- a coalition of major management, professional and retiree organizations representing Ohio's public K-12 and higher education teachers. This member-driven initiative calls for increasing public teachers' contributions to STRS Ohio by 2.5% and their employers' contributions by 2.5% of teacher payroll to create an ongoing, dedicated revenue stream for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program for current and future retired educators. These increases would be phased in over a five-year period, in .5% increments.
Rep. Oelslager previously introduced this legislation in mid-December
2006. However, no action was taken on it before the General Assembly adjourned. STRS Ohio is grateful to Rep. Oelslager and the 14 bill co-sponsors for their willingness to take this significant step to further the discussion about this critical issue.
As with any proposal that comes before the General Assembly, passage will require the efforts of many to make legislators aware of how crucial the increased contributions are to the viability of the STRS Ohio Health Care Program. This fall, members can contact their legislators, asking that they support hearings and continued discussion about this proposal. Members are encouraged to continue to watch for e-mail updates, visit the STRS Ohio Web site ( and read STRS Ohio newsletters to keep abreast of the bill's progress.
Training of additional "Health Care Champions" is also continuing. A workshop is scheduled in the greater Cleveland/Akron/Canton area for Sept. 27; plans call for sessions in the Toledo area, the Dayton/Cincinnati area and a second one in central Ohio. Many Health Care Champions have already made contacts with their legislators; others are sharing information about the initiative with their teaching colleagues or fellow retirees.
At its August 2007 meeting, the State Teachers Retirement Board reviewed a draft policy developed by STRS Ohio staff regarding the divestment of investments in Iran and Sudan. The Retirement Board continued its discussion of this draft policy at its September 2007 meeting and received input on the policy from its investment consultant, Russell Investment Group, as well as from fiduciary counsel. The draft policy is limited to STRS Ohio's actively managed international portfolios in equities and fixed income. As written, STRS Ohio would not divest of a restricted security in Iran or Sudan unless a comparable substitute of equal risk and return, including transaction costs, is available.
Both the investment consultant and the fiduciary counsel concluded that the draft policy presented to the board protects the board's fiduciary responsibilities to the membership. This is in contrast to the provisions of Substitute House Bill 151 and Senate Bill 161 that mandate divestment by all five Ohio public pension plans. The Retirement Board has previously passed a motion opposing any legislatively mandated divestment of investments in Iran and Sudan, citing that such divestment is inconsistent with the board's fiduciary duties. Staff will respond at the October 2007 meeting to the board's request for more information about the proposed divestment process.
Purchased service credit is a subsidized element of the pension plan design of Ohio's five public systems. This is because most members who purchase service credit are paying only a portion of the additional liability created by the purchase. For example, STRS Ohio members paid about 28% of the additional pension liability created by the purchase of credit and nothing toward the additional health care liability for purchases made between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2005. The remaining
72% of the pension liability was absorbed by the system, with 100% of the additional health care liability absorbed by the Health Care Stabilization Fund.
As a result, the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC), which is the legislative oversight body for the five systems, has had an ongoing discussion of the purchasable service provisions of each system. At its most recent meeting in September 2007, ORSC staff recommended that Ohio law be changed to require members purchasing service in any of the systems to pay 100% of the additional liability created by the purchase. The ORSC members approved the staff's recommendation; however, no legislation has been proposed to make this change.
At the September Retirement Board meeting, STRS Ohio staff provided an overview of the issue and STRS Ohio's purchase service provisions and posed several key questions for the board's consideration. These are:
• What portion of liability created by the service credit purchase should be funded by the member purchasing the service?
• Should eligibility for purchased service be restricted to certain time constraints to limit the financial exposure to the system?
• What is the appropriate transitioning or grandfathering period for any change?
• Should purchased service count toward health care eligibility or the premium calculation?
The board agreed to continue the discussion at its October 2007 meeting.
The Retirement Board approved the following retirements and investment transactions:
• 817 active members were approved for service retirement; 195 inactive retirements were approved.
• In August, fixed-income purchases totaled $862 million; domestic equity purchases totaled $3 billion and real estate purchases totaled $278 million.
At its September 2007 meeting, the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) voted to accept its staff's recommendation against the passage of House Bill 152. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chris Widener, would require all boards of education to offer defined contribution plans available from private vendors to all new employees and those with less than five years of service credit. H.B. 152 was assigned to the House Financial Institutions, Real Estate and Securities (FIRES) Committee, which is chaired by Widener. The committee took testimony on the bill in the spring prior to the Legislature breaking for the summer; additional hearings are anticipated now that the legislators have returned, but they have not been announced.
The State Teachers Retirement Board has already voiced its opposition to the bill through action taken at the June 2007 board meeting. The board's position was shared with the FIRES Committee during a hearing held before the summer recess.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

RH Jones: At Last, a HC funding bill is re-introduced

From RH Jones, September 20, 2007
To all, especially those in OH Dist. 41:
I am extremely happy to announce that my Akron District 41, Rep. Brian Williams (D), has co-sponsored, with the sponsor, Rep. Scott Oelslager, R- N. Canton, a re-introduced House Bill 315 that will create a continuing source of revenue for Health Care (HC) for the present retired educator and those of the future.
In the Greater Akron Area, Kathy Chandler (Kent), Steve Dyer (Green), and Bill Healy Canton), all Democrats, signed the bill as co-sponsors, as well. From other Ohio districts, the co-signers are a mix of both Democrats and Republicans. This is a tribute to the spirit of co-operation that has been coming out of Columbus since the last election. Akron’s Rep. Brian Williams has been a leader in this co-operation. I have been wrong about the two political parties not being able to work together. This bill proves that they can! Because of this new spirit, it most surely will pass.
As everyone probably knows our HC will run out by 2021, or sooner. This is a bill that is LONG OVERDUE! We elder retired educators have given up so much already. And, I think that I can mention that our GRAY POWER will remember with deep gratitude those wonderful representatives of both parties who signed on to this bill.
In elation,
Robert Hudson Jones, a proud Core member

RH Jones: It is good policy for school boards to support HB 315

From RH Jones, September 20, 2007
Subject: It is good policy for school boards to support HB 315
To all, especially members of the Ohio School Boards Association:
The following are some comments to me by K. Fluke, PhD., retired STRS annuitant member: “Why would any member of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) be against HB 315 – the bill that would improve funding for the Health Care (HC) for retired teachers?
It is costly for school board districts to pay educators until age 65 and beyond – clients are not eligible for Medicare until the client age 65. The reasoning is: (1) Without HC coverage, they are more likely to stay on staff until age 65. Therefore they are more expensive than the younger employee who is at a lower pay scale. And, they generally require high paid premiums for HC/Rx, dental, eye and ear coverage paid for by the boards. Many boards are at tough negotiations, in sharp disagreement and are out of harmony with the unions over active teacher costs for HC benefits. Note: The younger educator tends to be healthier. (2) Although in general, some 65-year-old educators may be able to relate to the current lifestyle trends of the young, the 20-year-old employee would seem to be able to relate better, and to be educated in the newer teaching styles. Note: The general public usually prefers a gradual turnover and change of the educational atmosphere. (3) HB 315 is a fair pro-rated bill that has gradual increases in employer/employee percentages over 5-years. Therefore there is time for adjustment of the personnel budget.”
As retired annuitants, as Dr. Fluke and I, the writer, view the HB 315: When educators begin to retire earlier, it would be a board of education money saver for them and give them a chance to gain school faculties that are better balanced in age and teaching techniques.
Respectfully submitted by:
Robert Hudson Jones, STRS Ohio retired teacher annuitant

Molly Janczyk: HC Legislation Data: Meeting with OEA VP: Bill L., STRS Laura Ecklar; HC Dept Head: Gary Russell

From Molly Janczyk, September 20, 2007
Subject: HC Legislation Data: Meeting with OEA VP: Bill L., STRS Laura Ecklar; HC Dept Head: Gary Russell
Please remember to ask legislators who oppose HB 315 (HCA legislation) what solutions they have to remedy this problem. Ask what it will take for them to approve HB 315 allowing educators to prepay for their own HC.
Please engage in dialogue vs. attack mode as none of us gain a listening audience otherwise. Be clear with strong points, solid questions and good debate instead. We do not want to turn off legislations or any opposed to this bill. Do not use past actions or current trends if you find them opposed to your goals. This will set up walls and close minds. Facts and data are what make us credible. This is common to any debate with anyone if we wish them to listen to us with open minds. If you do not have an answer, say you will find out and get back to them.
Remember Mooney's words: "What will it take for us to find resolution on this issue."
CORE President: Dave Parshall, and I, Molly Janczyk, met with HCA Spokesperson and OEA VP: Bill Leibensperger, STRS Communications Head: Laura Ecklar, and STRS HC Dept. Head: Gary Russell to discuss points brought up by CORE membership after discussion with legislators on HC legislation. Herschel Grimm of OFT was in attendance as part of the HCA.
HC Legislation now introduced: HB315:
Questions had been presubmitted based on issues raised by CORE membership.
*** Educators are asking for permission to pay for their own way: to prepay their own HC by establishing a dedicated stream of revenue for the STRS HC Program. This will establish long term solvency and put STRS HC on a 30 yr. funding basis much like unfunded liability. We are not asking for a free fix. This is teachers taking care of themselves to keep their own from being uninsured by PREFUNDING their HC.
*If this legislation is not passed, and affordable HC in retirement is not offered to attract quality educators, we will lose them to other states and occupations. Ohio needs education as a high priority which is impossible if we cannot retain and attract the best. There is no retirement without HC.
*If this legislation is not passed, employees will work longer translating into an older workforce with more health problems paid for by the employers (School Districts) who will also be paying higher salaries for senior educators. These senior educators will need to work into their 60's, 70's, 80's to pay for HC: Therefore, School Districts will pay higher end salaries and increased medical costs for an older workforce.
*If this legislation is not passed, younger employees will demand much higher salaries as well knowing they will have to save for their future HC in retirement.
*This is a member driven initiative which can generate $94 million in the first year and $500 million in 5 yrs. on an ongoing basis.
*For a teacher earning $40,000 a yr. , the proposed contribution means an addt'l approx. $8 per ck. during the first year and at the end of 5 yrs. a total deduc. of approx. $40 per ck which will be more than made up for in increases unless there are no salary changes. This is prepaying for having HC in their retirement. Nothing is guaranteed in life but predictions based on available data, this increase to HC should enable STRS to keep pace with increasing HC costs and provide HC for future retirees. (This is an incremental plan at .5% increase per year for 5 yrs. up to a total max of 2.5% in 5 yrs. and held at 2.5% from then on).
It is a PAY NOW OR PAY LATER but LATER will only cost more as health care costs will increase vs. paying incrementally now to offset future accumulating costs.
*Taken as a whole: Retired Educators now pay 48% of the total HC costs with premiums and out of pocket costs.
*Taken as a whole: Active Educators will pay up to 75% of the total HC costs prepaying 2.5% a year (25%) and then 48% as part of the Retiree base when they retire.
HC costs:
-48% Retirees as a body now.
-25% Actives (employee)
-25% Employer
-48% Retirees as a group.
1. Why only 1% to Healthcare: Legislators may say STRS CAN raise the allocation up to 4.94% by STRS Board vote. This is true.
The 10% employee contribution and 14% employer contribution is set by law and cannot be changed without legislation. The 1% is decided by the STRS Board. There is a formula for each pension system limiting contributions to HC Funding. Each system may be different based on their statistics.
Raising this 1% is NOT prudent. The ORSC (Ohio Retirement Study Council) has sent a strong and clear message that the unfunded liability funding period for each system's pension obligations should not exceed 30 yrs. and should be at a 85% ratio for funding. We were at 47 + years (mortgage). DUE TO PHENOMENAL INVESTMENT RETURNS, we are down to 30 yrs or near 30 yrs. again!
-Funding Ratio: 85% is a reasonable goal, and the Board has adopted a policy that no benefit enhancements will be made until at least that ratio is achieved. If STRS were to close its doors today, the funding ratio is the percentage of the system's obligations that could be paid. This is a standard metric used in all businesses.
THE STRS BOARD HAS VOTED AND THE HCA (Health Care Advocates: STRS, OEA, OFT, ORTA, OCHER, etc.) stress that NO discretionary monies be directed to anything other than the Pension Fund UNTIL both the unfunded liability and the funding ration goals set by the ORSC are met.
While other pension systems may disregard these goals to use monies for short term fixes, long term solutions are being set aside to do so. We are ALL in this, active and retiree, and we must take a long term view for the good of all. OF&P, for example, have set infinity as their unfunded liability mark (mortgage) and thus, never able to pay off its debt for future employees in order to provide more now putting the system in jeopardy for tomorrow.
-It is not good business nor prudent, therefore, to erode the pension fund to pay for HC when the pension fund does not meet both its standards. We have long asked for long term planning for the HC fund. We cannot ask nor expect a short term fix for HC at the expense of the pension fund. Long term stability or constant risk or loss of HC.
-Fiduciary lawsuits by actives: Actives can very well state that STRS is NOT doing its fiduciary duty to fund pensions as STRS is a pension system and pensions are mandated while HC is not.
There, as we have witnessed, are many market ups and downs and the last was severe and lasting and many of us lost much. When you lose significant earnings, it affects you for many years and you spend more to get yourself either where you would have been or to keep up no longer having those funds healthy to help you. So, it you suddenly make large gains, you still have much catch up which takes years if at all. STRS is now making large returns, but has not recovered its 2 standards: 30 yr unfunded liability and the 85% funding ration (meaning if all retired today, STRS could pay 85% of its membership. 100% is not required.
*STRS Reserves:
-STRS IS THE ONLY PENSION SYSTEM THAT HAS A RESERVE BUILT UP IN ITS HC FUND! $4 BILLION! This is creating revenue in interest for the fund and solvency has been predicted until 2020 or 2021. However, with NO legislation to set a steady revenue for the HC FUND, by 2009 or 2010, STRS will have to begin using the principle of the fund as we will have used up the interest on it. That is the beginning of lack of solvency and begins to erode the fund fast as a cost of $1.3 MILLION PER DAY that STRS pays for HC for its recipients. Remember, STRS is self insured and pays for the costs itself from this fund. Med. Mutual, Aetna, etc only manage the accounts. None of the other pension systems have such a reserve.
THIS RESERVE MEANS STRS IS THE ONLY PENSION SYSTEM THAT CAN ASK LEGISLATORS FOR ONLY 5% increase in contributions from employee (2.5%) and employer (2.5%), unlike some of the other retirement systems who would need far more than that in order to maintain their current health care program.
STRS has managed the system well, so that it is realistic and doable for members to pre-fund their future health care subsidy if permitted to do so by the legislature.
2. Question: Effects of 88% RULE AND 35 YEAR BENEFIT: Some may hear comments that STRS retirees can afford to pay for HC themselves retiring with 88% of their salaries.
HC has never been predicated on economic issues. This has nothing to do with HC. The STRS Health Care Program is not sustainable without additional revenue, and the 35-year enhanced benefit does not influence that fact. Projections for a 65 yr. old couple with an average live expectancy could need up to $295,000 to cover premiums for supplemental Medicare coverage and out of pocket medical costs.
If legislation is NOT passed, the STRS HC Program as we know it will end. The cost of health care for current retirees will go way up, and future retirees will be unlikely to receive any subsidy for their health care.
While this benefit pays out more, it results in savings to STRS HC based on delayed retirements. Retirees without Medicare are the costliest as STRS is the primary and typically the only payer. Retirees with 30 yrs or more receive the highest subsidy of 75% of their premium funded by the HCSF (Health Care Stabilization Fund).
The goal of the 35 yr. benefit is to move actives to retire later and work longer to allow STRS to receive 5 additional years of employer and employee contributions (generally at a higher salary) STRS IS NOT subsidizing HC benefits during this period. This results in savings for STRS.
Educators tend to retire young withdrawing from the funds longer. The longer one works, the longer the system system has no payouts for pensions and medical costs, and the closer the member is to Medicare age when STRS gets some assistance in payouts. Pre-Medicare recipients are the costliest for any pension system.
ALSO: actives are working longer because of worries about HC costs.
3. QUESTIONS: Use of statistics for less fortunate, etc.
Avoid using 'poor STRS retirees.' The mood is not sympathic to public pension retirees.
-The average STRS retiree with 30 yrs. receives $43,000 annually, more than many active workers earn.
-Many feel public pension retirees retire too early, receive much better pensions than Soc. Sec. and FAQS are that 71% of STRS retirees have investment holdings which many citizens do not.
-IF an STRS is paying 1/2 of their pension for HC, it is likely not a 30 yrs. retiree. The public and legislators are not sympathic to this. They feel it is a supplemental ck for the household or a need was not there to work for 30 yrs. or another career existed as well.
You will only hear of workers who get no HC, lost jobs, only have 401Ks with no HC, receive $1000 more or less in Soc. Sec. pensions, etc.
**There will be exceptions, of course, to any FAQ.
4. QUESTION: What numbers are being crunched? That is answered in the info re: school boards having to pay now or later; older staff working to pay for HC costs higher salaries and more HC problems due to age. Younger staff will demand higher salaries if have to save to pay own HC.
GO TO: for talking points
AND websites for: STRS, OEA, ORTA and CORE for talking points.
Forms for feedback on the HC Champions web site listed above for meetings with School Boards. Call Laura Ecklar for any materials and info: 614-227-5203
There will be a meeting to train HC Champions and provide materials in Cols., Akron area, SW area. Go to sites for dates. Other meetings will be planned.
ASK ORTA TO INSERVICE YOUR RTA and or provide info to members! (Ann Hanning)
OEA will be informing actives.
**Terri Bierdeman: spoke on this issue to CORE; all legis. issues interrelated. Fall will be taken up with scheduled energy meetings with legislators. Then we go into 2008 Election yr. when most don't want to take risks. Husted, School Boards, Charter Schools (profits affected), conservatives (don't like gov. controlled anything) and actives who do not plan to work as educators long have always been opposed to HCA legislation.
Mandates with investments have always been around and now it's Iran; tomorrow something different and yesterday , different still.
Remarks from Terri have also been inserted in data above.
Dave Parshall ran the agenda and pointed out that handouts with talking points were available and reviewed our am meeting with Ecklar, Leibensperger and Russell.
Discussion about Medicare Adv. Plans: Dave and Lou DiOrio pointed out they make profits which should go to Medicare. SERS was forced to choose a Medicare Advantage Plan.
Dave reminded us to go to CORE website: for updates.
Betty Bell, Marie Fetters (new member and put to work), Herman Fisher are all cking on costs of T-shirts, sweatshirts for CORE at businesses which print low numbers at a time-perhaps 20: If this works, we will take orders and when enough are gathered, we will have them printed.
The minutes are taken from the 10:30 am meeting Laura Ecklar, Bill L., Gary Russell; the CORE Noon meeting where Terri Bierdeman spoke to us and Bill L. speech to the STRS Board.
Bill Leibensperger (OEAVP; HCA Spokesperson): stated the pension system was well managed and commended the Staff and the Board. Reminded that different grps. may pressure to use funds for different purposes but to stay on task and goal as the STRS Board voted: to not use funds for discretionary purposes until both funding issues resolved.
Betsy Cook asked the Board to consider and examine all data and expenditures, ask questions and be diligent with oversight. She thanked CORE for its diligence to right a wrong and for continuing to keep members up to date for all those unable to attend. She thanked the Board for its time.

Molly Janczyk: Some words of appreciation

From Molly Janczyk, September 20, 2007
Subject: Appreciation: Meeting
Bill Leibensperger, Laura Ecklar, Gary Russell,
I very much appreciate your time and effort in meeting with Dave Parshall and myself today. You were gracious, informative, forthcoming and fully responsive in your answers. While general points have been published or discussed previously, I acquired strong specifics to add to talking points should it be necessary. Thank you for your cooperation and making us feel comfortable, involved and welcome anytime.
I also appreciate Terri Bierdeman's presentation and handout to the CORE group at noon. She was professional and approachable and most responsive.
Molly J.

From Nancy Hamant: A Medicare Advantage Example

Nancy Hamant to Dave Parshall, September 15, 2007
Subject: Medicare Advantage Example--Edited

The husband dropped out of her SERS plan two years ago due to the increase in monthly premiums for spouses. He joined a Medicare Complete Plan (One of Ohio's Medicare Advantage Plans). His monthly premium was greatly reduced. All was fine for two years, then he had to have full knee replacement surgery this past June. He previously had partial knee replacement surgery (on the opposite knee four years ago) under the SERS insurance plan. He quickly found out that he was responsible for much more of the Hospital bill under the Medicare Complete plan (Advantage) and he also found out that he had to pay a significant co-insurance cost for the required therapy. His solution -- he stopped therapy after one month, convinced he could do it at home on his stationary bicycle and doing "step therapy." Three months later, he has had so much pain and has been on pain-killers for this entire time that all his doctors are appalled. His upper thigh muscle has deteriorated to the extent that he is now ordered to have therapy three times a week (rather than the initial two times) to correct the muscle loss, and he has had the pain medication reduced to a less potent drug for three weeks so that he can now use Aleve. He is fortunately able to get Tier 2 medications through VA as he cannot afford the Medicare Complete costs. Also, he is still thinking about only going to therapy two times a week, as the co-insurance for therapy is still costing thousands.
His wife just received her annual enrollment package from SERS regarding her insurance plan for next year. Her monthly premium for 2007 is $88 a month; her monthly premium for 2008 will be $58 a month -- she is thrilled about that drop in premium. SERS stated that she will be "automatically" enrolled in the new plan (which as STRS staff stated is a Medicare Advantage Plan. Also, in the SERS plan information on their website, which was circulated by CORE, SERS clearly states that if SERS member does not accept the Medicare Advantage plans provided by either Aetna or Med Mutual, no other options are available). She did not have any information as of yet as to any changes in coverage, annual deductibles or co-insurance. So basically, many SERS members will be very happy with the monthly premium reductions, but at this point have no idea as to what will happen when they have to use the plan.
The STRS Medicare Advantage Plan considered was to be only in five counties. STRS's Sandy Knoesel said that STRS staff struggled with making any recommendation to the STRS Board due to the "poor track record" of Aetna and Med Mutual's Medicare Advantages' plans. However, the STRS staff said that Aultcare's record for the five counties was much better, so the STRS staff recommended that it be considered as a "pilot" plan. After much discussion, the STRS Board voted against including a Medicare Advantage plan as the five county situation could not be replicated anywhere else in Ohio.
Also, the September issue of Consumers Report stated that a Medicare Advantage Plan should only be considered by anyone after a complete comparison of the person's current medical plan to the Medicare Advantage Plan be completed by a qualified insurance consultant.
So, it is evident that the SERS members will serve as a "pilot" for all five public pension plans to critically observe and monitor whether or not Medicare Advantage Plans are appropriate options for Ohio's public pensioners.
Nancy Hamant

September board meeting notice from STRS

September 12, 2007
The State Teachers Retirement Board and Committee meetings currently scheduled at the STRS Ohio offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, are as follows:
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
.....1:00 p.m. Disability Review Panel, followed by a meeting of the Final Average Salary Committee (Executive Session)
Thursday, September 20, 2007
.....9:00 a.m. Audit Committee Meeting (An Executive Session is expected)
.....9:30 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting
The Audit Committee will meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday, September 20, 2007, and the Retirement Board meeting will come to order at 9:30 a.m. The Board is expected to receive reports from the Member Benefits Department regarding pension benefits and the Investment Department. The Executive Director’s Report (1 p.m.) will be followed by public participation. The Board will address routine matters and any other topics that may require its attention Thursday afternoon.

Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215

September CORE meeting 9/20/07 at noon

From Molly Janczyk, September 12, 2007
PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND CORE ANNUAL MEETING ON 9/20/07 AT NOON [STRS building, cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room, 2nd floor; all interested persons are welcome]: GUEST SPEAKER IS TERRI BIERDEMAN OF STRS: LEGIS LIAISON FOR STRS.





Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sponsor and Co-Sponsors of HB 315: Please contact them to thank them!

From John Curry, September 18, 2007
Subject: The following are sponsors of HB 315...These good folks care about STRS educator actives and retirees' HEALTHCARE...please support them! John

Rep. W. Scott Oelslager (R) District 51 HB 315
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 752-2438
Fax : (614) 719-6951
Email Address:
The following are all Co-Sponsors of House Bill 315:
Rep. Matthew H. Barrett (D) District 58
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-9628
Fax : (614) 719-3958
Email Address:
Rep. Barbara Boyd (D) District 09
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5079
Fax : (614) 719-0009
Email Address:
Rep. Edna Brown (D) District 48
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1401
Fax : (614) 719-6948
Email Address:
Rep. Kathleen Chandler (D) District 68
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-2004
Fax: (614) 719-3968
Email Address:
Rep. Clyde Evans (R) District 87
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1366
Fax : (614) 719-6987
Email Address:
Rep. William J. Healy, II (D) District 52
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8030
Fax : (614) 719-6952
Email Address:
Rep. Jim Hughes (R) District 22
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-2473
Fax : (614) 719-6961
Email Address:
Rep. Matt Lundy (D) District 57
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5076
Fax : (614) 719-3957
Email Address:
Rep. Mark D. Okey (D) District 61
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1464
Fax : (614) 719-3961
Email Address:
Rep. Bill Seitz (R) District 30 Majority Whip
77 S. High St
14th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8258
Fax : (614) 719-3584
Email Address:
Rep. Matt Szollosi (D) District 49
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-1418
Fax : (614) 719-6949
Email Address:
Rep. Brian G. Williams (D) District 41
77 S. High St
10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-5085
Fax : (614) 719-6941
Email Address:
Rep. Kenny Yuko (D) District 07
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8012
Fax : (614) 719-0007
Email Address:

Dayton Daily News visits WEP issue

Our View: Teachers' complaints earn partial credit
By Dayton Daily News
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Public school teachers are working hard to eliminate what they see as injustices in how Social Security benefits are given.

They have some good points, but they — and other public employees — are wrong that Social Security rules need to be totally reordered. Fine-tuning should fix the problems.

The complaints are about the "government pension offset" and "windfall elimination provision."

The government pension offset reduces spousal benefits under Social Security. Specifically, when a spouse covered by Social Security dies and the surviving spouse gets a civil service pension in a state (such as Ohio) where public employees don't pay into Social Security, the survivor's Social Security benefit is reduced in an amount equal to two-thirds of the survivor's government pension.

In many cases, this rules means that a survivor receives nothing from Social Security.

The "windfall elimination provision" comes in to play when a public employee has spent part of his or her career covered by Social Security, but receives a pension under an exempt civil service system. Again, the employee's Social Security benefit likely will be reduced.

Teachers have been leading the charge to repeal both provisions. They argue that the government pension offset creates hardships especially among widows who earn a modest teacher's pension. They also say that the windfall provision unfairly penalizes mid-career professionals who have made the switch to teaching.

Legislation is pending in the House and Senate to get rid of the rules. The House version has more than 300 co-sponsors, including U.S. Reps. David Hobson, R-Springfield, and Michael Turner, R-Centerville. E-mails and online petitions pushing the bill have been flying in recent days in hopes that the House will consider the bill this fall.

That seems unlikely if only because the cost of eliminating the two provisions was estimated in 2003 to exceed $61 billion over 10 years. That would be a huge, new expense for Social Security — and an overreaction.

The provisions can create some inequities, but they are supported by sound policy and repealing them would create new unfairness.

The Social Security Act, for example, already reduces a survivor's benefit when he or she also receives a Social Security payment. The government pension offset is designed to make a similar adjustment to a survivor's benefit when a surviving spouse receives a government pension.

Similarly, the Social Security system has special rules for low-income workers. The goal is to provide them a minimum benefit even if they spent all of their working years in a low-paying jobs. Workers who spend just part of their career covered by the Social Security system could, by virtue of their limited service, be mistaken for low-income workers — when, in fact, they may be receiving a substantial civil service pension. The windfall elimination provision is supposed to prevent that from happening.

Repealing both policies would give former public employees receiving civil service pensions a preferred status. However, teachers are right that the government pension offset and windfall elimination provisions do not always work as intended. One critic aptly calls them "a blunt instrument."

The best solution would be to tailor reforms to eliminate specific injustices — not replace one blunt instrument with another.

Tom Curtis to Sponsor and Co-sponsors of HB 315: Thank you

From Tom Curtis, September 18, 2007

Subject: HB 315, Thank You Representatives For Caring About STRS Retirees

Hello Representatives,
My name is Tom Curtis. I am an STRS retiree. I would like to thank each of you from the bottom of my heart for caring enough about STRS retirees to co-sponsor HB 315.

This much needed legislation will provide a future for our current health care program. Without passage of this legislation, the current health care program will run out of funds in the very near future.

With this initial support from each of you, it is my hope that enough other legislators will follow your lead to enable passage of HB 315. Health care is a necessary addition to the pension program. Retirement without health care means no retirement at all. My greatest concern is that, if HB 315 does not pass, there will be no health care program for the active teachers less then half way through their career.


Thomas Curtis

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

HB 315 -Our healthcare future... some very thoughtful legislators need our backing and support!

From STRS, September 18, 2007
Subject: [News] Health Care Funding Legislation Introduced

On Sept. 18, 2007, Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) reintroduced the STRS Ohio-proposed health care legislation. House Bill 315 is co-sponsored by Reps. Matthew Barrett (D-Amherst), Barbara Boyd (D-Cleveland Hts.), Edna Brown (D-Toledo), Kathleen Chandler (D-Kent), Steve Dyer (D-Green), Clyde Evans (R-Rio Grande), William Healy (D-Canton), Jim Hughes (R-Columbus), Matt Lundy (D-Elyria), Mark Okey (D-Carrollton), William Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Matt Szollosi (D-Oregon), Brian Williams (D-Akron) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights).

This bill carries with it the support of the Health Care Advocates for STRS (HCA) -- a coalition of major management, professional and retiree organizations representing Ohio's public K-12 and higher education teachers. This member-driven initiative calls for increasing public teachers' contributions to STRS Ohio by 2.5% and their employers' contributions by 2.5% of teacher payroll to create an ongoing, dedicated revenue stream for the STRS Ohio Health Care Program for current and future retired educators. These increases would be phased in over a five-year period, in .5% increments. Additional information about this funding initiative can be accessed at:

Rep. Oelslager previously introduced this legislation in mid-December 2006. However, no action was taken on it before the General Assembly adjourned. STRS Ohio is grateful to Rep. Oelslager and the 14 bill co-sponsors for their willingness to take this significant step to further the discussion about this critical issue.

This fall, members can contact their legislators, asking that they support hearings and continued discussion about this proposal. Members are encouraged to continue to watch for e-mail updates, visit the STRS Ohio Web site ( and read STRS Ohio newsletters to keep abreast of the bill's progress.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Molly Janczyk to Husted and Harris: Why no appointee to the STRS Board?

From Molly Janczyk, September 17, 2007
Subject: Sen. Harris , Speaker Husted, Damon Asbury: STRS Board Appointee
I am wondering why the Sen. Pres. and the House Speaker have not fulfilled their duty by SB 133 and made an appointment to the STRS Board as stated in this bill. This seat has been vacant for over a year and many have asked for consideration of Prof. Tom Hall for this position.
I request an answer to this query and will call if I cannot obtain one. There has been ample time to follow the law and make this appointment.
Molly Janczyk
[Address, etc.]

Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted:
Ohio Senate President Bill Harris:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

AG Dann, a thumbs-up, a thumbs-down, and a thumbing of the nose!

Editorial: Attacking bad charter schools on a new front
Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 16, 2007
For far too long, abysmally performing charter schools in Ohio have been wasting students' time and taxpayers' money - and getting away with it.
So give credit to Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann for trying to put two of the worst out of business. Maybe he'll strike fear in the hearts of other laggards around the state. Maybe some of them will take their jobs more seriously.
Dann is angling to seize the nonprofit status of New Choices Community School and Colin Powell Leadership Academy, both in the Dayton area, so he can close their doors.
Despite $17 million in public money that has flowed into their accounts over the last six years, neither school has lived up to state scholastic standards, and the lawsuit says both have "persistently lagged" the Dayton public schools, hardly a stellar academic system.
Terry Ryan, a vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which runs nine charters in Southern Ohio, but not the two in Dann's crosshairs, sees an ominous portent in Dann's entry into educational quality control.
He says that since the legislature has established a procedure for closing bad charter schools, the schools shouldn't face the "academic death penalty" at the hands of the state prosecutor's office.
It's true that Ohio law allows the state to close down underperforming charter schools, but the hoops the state has to jump through in order to close a school can keep a bad charter open for quite a while: A school has to be in academic emergency for three years and flunk other measures before it has to shut its doors, said Todd Hanes, the Ohio Department of Education's executive director of community schools.
The earliest many failing charter schools are expected to empty out is at the end of the 2009 school year. That's a long, long time to leave young minds unattended.
Dann is putting the squeeze on just two underachieving charter schools. Ohio has hundreds more. But Dann's actions should warn others that Ohio's leaders won't continue to tolerate poor test scores and lousy student attendance.
To do so would be a criminal abandonment of Ohio's children - and there's been enough of that already.
And now....we have the Lima News' editorial re. the Dann vs. Charter Schools via the Lima News editorial staff:
EDITORIAL: Dumbing down
Lima, News, September 16, 2007
Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann has begun a campaign of suing charter schools that aren’t meeting academic and financial requirements. Whatever his stated reasons for the suits, Dann appears to be trying yet another tactic to push Ohio public schools back to having a lock on all the tax money no matter how poorly they perform.
Dann is overstepping his bounds by a wide margin. His office contends the charter schools are not meeting their obligations to receive taxpayer money. Further, a spokesman said accountability measures for charter schools that the General Assembly put in place would take too long. That’s a bold statement: The Ohio attorney general doesn’t like the timeframe lawmakers set, so he’s going to override them.
We’ll let the Republicans in charge of both houses of the Ohio Legislature worry about reminding Dann who actually makes laws in this state. Our concern is the double standard many Democrats and just about every public schools teacher and administrator has about “protecting” the taxpayer.
When a charter school underperforms or a private school has some sort of scandal, it’s a condemnation of all schools of choice, according to the public schools-only lobby. When the same happens in public schools, it’s explained as one bad actor or further evidence that the state needs to spend more money.
Dann’s lawsuits against the schools follows Gov. Ted Strickland’s attempt to write educational vouchers for students in failing public schools out of the state budget. Republicans in the Legislature sensibly restored the money to allow parents to provide their children an escape from continually failing schools.
Ridding the state of schools that continuously fail isn’t such a bad idea. But it should be all schools that continuously fail, not just one group or the other. But Dann and Strickland don’t seem nearly as interested in improving education as they do in simply keeping parents from choosing what’s best for their children.
Of course...what would we expect from an ultra-conservative newspaper from northwestern Ohio? This editorial is from the same folks who bitch, moan and wail when taxes rise a fraction of a per cent for education but who fail to mention to their readers that readers' tax monies were used (i.e. wasted) to generate profits for charter school's administrators and sponsors off the backs of every Ohio taxpayer. These same editors also failed to divulge to their readers that the bookkeeping and salaries paid by these charter schools (unlike public schools) are NOT open for inspection by the general public and that the charter operators can thumb their noses all day long against freedom of information requests issued to them by the general public as charters are protected from the Freedom of Information Act. Pretty good for a newspaper which is owned by the "Freedom" Communications Inc., don't you think? Therefore, the 17 million tax dollars that went to these two Dayton area charters can legally be and are publicly unaccounted for.....just like the poor proficiency scores racked up by the students in these two schools. Lastly, these editors forgot to tell the general public that the boards of charter schools can and often are staffed by non-locals that can also thumb their noses at the local much for local control! Two more years of waiting and wasting taxpayers' monies until the Ohio Dept. of Education (by law) can act to shut these charters (and others like them) down is two years too many. Public schools haven't exhibited nearly the failure rate that many charters have. Marc Dann is just doing his job to protect the public, and he is being faulted for it!
John Curry
A non-proud subscriber of The Lima News

Looking ahead -- STRS Board meeting dates through August 2008

From the STRS website, September 16, 2007
Board Calendar
The State Teachers Retirement Board meets monthly (with the exception of July) at the STRS Ohio offices in Columbus. Meetings are open to the public.
While the Retirement Board generally meets on the third Thursday and Friday of the month, the meeting dates are subject to change. Additional meetings may also be added to the calendar. For the official board meeting dates, watch the STRS Ohio What’s New section on the home page for public meeting notices.
Scheduled dates for the remaining 2007 Retirement Board meetings are:
Sept. 20 & 21
Oct. 18 & 19
Nov. 15 & 16
Dec. 13 & 14
Scheduled dates for the 2008 Retirement Board meetings are:
Jan. 17 & 18
Feb. 14 & 15
March 27 & 28
April 16 & 17
May 15 & 16
June 19 & 20
July — no meeting
Aug. 14 & 15
Sept. — TBA
Oct. — TBA
Nov. — TBA
Dec. — TBA
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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