Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rep. Otterman, HB 315 supporter, leaving Ohio House for Summit Co. post

From RH Jones, December 1, 2007
Subject: A supporter of HB 315 is leaving House District 45

To State Rep. Joyce Beatty(D), Rep. George Distel(D), and all:

With the retirement of education friendly & a retired STRS member, State Rep. Bob Otterman, 45 District, it is hoped that Rep. George Distel will replace him with a similar education friendly/retired educator. The passage of House Bill 315 is too important for our state to have a non-educator replace him. To support education is to support business. Therefore, you active and retired educators may wish to contact Rep. George Distel, 99th District, and Rep. Joyce Beatty, 27th District, if you are a voting resident of those districts.

Rep. George Distel
495 Middle Rd.
Conneaut 44030
Tel. 440-599-8540

Rep. Joyce Beatty
5300 Hamilton Ave., Suite 18C
Cincinnati, OH 45224
Statehouse tel. 614-466-5343

The following was reported in the Akron Beacon Journal this morning, 12/01/07, on page B3:

State Rep. Otterman to give up seat

AKRON: State Rep. Robert J. Otterman is leaving his 45th House District seat to take a job in Summit County, Ohio House Leader Joyce Beatty said.

She said state Rep. George Distel, D-Conneaut, will chair a screening committee to recommend Otterman’s replacement. Since Otterman is a Democrat, the remaining 45 members of the House Caucus will be responsible for the choice.

Otterman is in his fourth term and is expected to give up his seat by the end of the year. He started his career in public service on Akron City Council, where he served for 29 years before he was elected to the House.

The 45th district includes parts of Akron and Barberton.

With certain members of the State House playing severe “hard ball” with the public school districts education issues, it is no wonder that Rep. Bob Otterman would want out and possibly even “burn out”. It is so difficult to get a home run with team members that do not play fairly. They have been pitching hard-heartedly against public school children and their teachers over Otterman’s four terms in office. It is time that we voted out of office the team that has opposed children and their teachers for these past several years.

Thank you Bob Otterman. You will be terribly missed by the children and their teachers that you have served so well over the past several years. Good luck in your new job.

The sincere opinion of,

Robert Hudson Jones, a voting resident of Ohio District 45

Friday, November 30, 2007

AMA cracking down on drug switching MDs

From John Curry, November 28, 2007
"While the practice earlier this year in Michigan of doctors receiving $100 from Blue Cross for each patient they switched off Lipitor to a generic drug has never been practiced in Massachusetts, doctors in the Bay State who switch enough patients off brand names receive a financial reward at the end of the fiscal year."
Source: Boston Channel 5
Drug Switches May Lead To Doctor Punishments
AMA Cracking Down On Practice
POSTED: 5:49 pm EST November 20, 2007 UPDATED: 8:32 am EST November 22, 2007
BOSTON -- For the first time, the American Medical Association is warning that doctors who switch their patients off brand name drugs, including Lipitor, and onto generics could face criminal and civil punishment.
NewsCenter 5's Janet Wu reported that the warning from the AMA comes after numerous inquires from physicians nationwide. The AMA's answer could not be more clear.
A physician accepting payment from an insurer in exchange for moving a patient from a brand name to a generic drug could potentially face both criminal and civil liability exposure under the federal anti-kickback statute.
The penalties are as much as five years in prison, with criminal fines as high as $25,000 for each violation, civil penalties up to $50,000 and exclusion from federal programs, such as Medicare in the future.
Rep. Peter Koutoujian said as Chairman of Health Care and as a patient on cholesterol medication, he wants tougher state laws governing doctors getting financial benefits for switching their patients' medications.
"We want to know that the decision is being made in our best interest. And if there are incentives being offered to the doctor, while that decision might be in our interest, how can we truly trust that decision?" Koutoujian said.
While the practice earlier this year in Michigan of doctors receiving $100 from Blue Cross for each patient they switched off Lipitor to a generic drug has never been practiced in Massachusetts, doctors in the Bay State who switch enough patients off brand names receive a financial reward at the end of the fiscal year.
Dr. Jerome Kassirer, former editor of the New England Medical Journal, has written extensively on the relationship between doctors and big business.
"Doctors, since the passage of Medicare, have become accustomed to getting a fee for everything they do," he said. "Doctors seem to believe that they are entitled to all this largesse from industry."
But despite the AMA warning, Dr. Thomas Lee, CEO of Partners Community HealthCare, continues to defend the practice by doctors because it also saves patients money.
"We support the use of pay-for-performance contracts that reward providers for improving quality and efficiency. We think this approach is far better than simply shifting more costs onto consumers," Lee said in a statement.
The AMA said that any physician's first priority must be the patient's health and the best medical practices available to treat it. It said it was not aware of any doctors being prosecuted under the federal anti-kickback statute for switching patients off brand names.
Meanwhile, it was revealed last week that Blue Cross Chief Executive William Van Fassen was rewarded with more than $16 million in retirement pay even though he did not leave the company. He remains chairman of Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

From RH Jones, November 29, 2007
Subject: Fw: That foot looks fine!
Kathie, John & all:
We need to keep the pressure on for HB 315 or the legislators will put it in the grave as well. EVERYONE, KEEP CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATORS. Our unions need all the help they can get on this vital issue.

STRS Executive Director Consultant Search Committee to meet November 29, 11:00 a.m.

From STRS, November 20, 2007


November 20, 2007

The Executive Director Consultant Search Committee of the State Teachers Retirement Board of Ohio will meet on Thursday, November 29, 2007, at 11 a.m. The meeting will be held at the STRS Ohio office, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

'Lack of Insurance Hits Home'

John Curry to Cheryl Flagg, November 27, 2007
Subject: " Lack of Insurance Hits Home"
Cheryl....thank you for forwarding this excellent article. I will forward it on to those in my email address book. Most of them have come to the realization that a "major" restructuring of our national healthcare system is in order. Many of them have also come to the realization that the current way of doing business has not and is not working. When will our unsubstantiated fears of a medical system that parallels the Medicare system for ALL UP.SO. citizens under the age of 65 be quashed? And yes....AARP has their fingers in the insurance pie as they also profit from selling supplemental healthcare insurance policies and they also are becoming fat off the ills of our fellow Americans.
A national single payer healthcare system would reduce the number of BMW's in MD's garages from 3 to 2 but it would also reduce the number of Rolls Royce's in the stables of our healthcare insurance CEO's garages from 3 to 2 and...herein lies the political problem. Our bloated ($$) healthcare insurance companies have enough extra monies lying around to pay millions of dollars to the K Street lobbyists to ensure that their way of doing business will continue at the expense of every single American' well-being. They have practiced their form of prostitution on almost every member of Congress and Presidential candidate (yes, of both political parties). The doctors....well, when we do get nationalized healthcare they can always be told that they are free to practice their medicine in all the other countries of the world should they not like the way things are going in this know, kinda' like the old phrase: America, love it or leave it!
Only when a majority of Americans are financially ruined, ill, or both will there be a significant change in the way we deal with the way healthcare insurance is structured in this country. You know....I think that time is rapidly approaching. I can already hear the rumblings in the distance! John
P.S. I have yet to hear of a case in which a flag-waving and apple pie-eating senior citizen on Medicare has refused Medicare assistance in paying their medical bills because of Medicare's "socialized medicine" concept, have you? Nor have they refused the services of their local law enforcement and fire department's services as they are also "socialized" by their very nature! If they should complain, don't you think that would be just a little bit hypocritical?
Fifty years ago, this email would have triggered a visit from the FBI and a new Joseph McCarthy witch hunt would have surely been initiated upon any of us who would dare speak these words! My, my, how the times have changed, haven't they? Today, the "s-bomb" doesn't have nearly the same undesirable impact as the "f-bomb," does it?
Cheryl Flagg to: John Curry, November 27, 2007
Subject: Re: " Lack of Insurance Hits Home"
John, Jim Spencer is a very well respected progressive who was laid off by the Denver Post along with others earlier this year. There's an interesting link offered in the comment below re AARP health initiative/activism. Haven't decided if they're on our side or not. Cheryl
Lack of Insurance Hits Home
by: Jim Spencer
Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 08:07 AM MST
I passed a milestone in America's health care crisis recently. I skipped an appointment with the eye doctor because I lost insurance coverage when I got laid off my job.
I risked hurting my vision because I didn't feel like I could afford the doctor visit. I know it was a short-sighted decision, but it sure gave me a long view of what America's 47 million uninsured residents face. It also gave me a renewed appreciation for the need for national health care reform and a better understanding of why a single-payer system might be the way to go. Early indications are that Colorado won't be headed in that direction when a blue ribbon commission makes its health care reform recommendation to the governor next month.
You hear the word incremental change a lot in this debate. State Rep. Ann McGihon even used the term on a YouTube video posted on the website of Partnership for a Healthy Colorado which is trying to explain to state residents how much it costs to have 20 percent of Colorado's population uninsured.
It costs insured people an extra $934 a year, according to a new radio commercial.
The status quo, where those with insurance pay higher premiums because of the costs of caring for the uninsured, is intolerable. It just drives the cost of health insurance farther out of the range of everyone, leading more people to make decisions like the one I made - not to get treatment.
And yet politicians are wed to the notion that change in a failed system must come in baby steps. This makes as much sense as the President of the United States telling us we already have "socialized medicine" in the emergency room.
The need to preserve the profit motive in medicine runs deep. But emergency rooms don't make money. Their costs have to be shifted into charges for other forms of hospital care. That's why I once saw a hospital patient's bill with a charge for a $120 dose of Tylenol. That is also why those with health insurance pay more when more people get their regular medical treatment in the ER.
The national myopia manifested in the opposition to single-payer health insurance or other forms of guaranteed health care hits home most when you must forego treatment for lack of money. When that happens, you see that a single-payer plan guarantees access to treatment as well or better than anything else in the American market. Doctors don't work for the government in a single-payer system as critics would have you believe. Single-payer involves a quasi-governmental agency collecting money to pay private doctors through payroll deduction. Even private health care consultants are starting to recognize that this saves money in the long run.
The only would-be presidential candidate willing to address that is Democrat John Edwards. His national health care program would guarantee treatment for medical care, prescription drugs, dental care and, yes, vision care. A tax increase would pay for all of it. But the extra taxes would be offset by the elimination of existing health insurance premiums and the end of tax cuts for the rich.
The other would-be candidates' plans are so convoluted that I can't tell exactly how vision coverage fits.
Here in Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter almost surely won't go for single-payer in the state's upcoming health care reform. Single-payer, you see, is supposed to be politically infeasible because it hurts too many vested interests now growing rich on our pain. Ritter will likely push some confusing, private-insurance-based alternative to the state legislature in order to hedge his re-election bets and to get something passed.
Meanwhile, Congress apparently fears comprehensive health care reform as much as it fears comprehensive immigration reform.
You hear about high-deductible health insurance plans that cost very little in premiums. Supporters - usually private insurance companies - promote these high-deductible plans as an alternative to single-payer. The alternative is that you have to come out of your pocket for thousands of dollars in doctors' fees and drugs before the insurance benefit kicks in.
Studies show that high deductibles don't lead people to make healthier lifestyle decisions or shop for cheaper physicians. High deductibles lead people to do what I did and what others without health insurance already do. We skip doctor appointments because we don't feel like we can afford them.
That's not health care reform. It's homage to a health care system that's sicker than 90 percent of the patients it purports to treat.
Health Insurance Crisis
I agree with this article. The health care crisis has reached epic proportions and we cannot keep up with the skyrocketing premiums with our limited paychecks. That's why we have to take action. I found a great site that AARP has put together. It has a petition and videos and email ID's to aid us in order to get our voices heard about this growing problem of health care. We will all be there someday and the time to pave the road for that day is now. The site is: It is full of useful information to guide us into through the treacherous complicated issues of health care. I know this because I am in support of AARP in this endeavor.
[Cheryl Flagg]

The history of the GPO/WEP and how it may affect you

From the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut
History of the GPO and WEP
The original Social Security system, established in 1935, excluded state and local government employees from coverage. In the 1960s, however, state and local employees were given the opportunity to elect to participate in the Social Security system. As a result, public sector employees in 36 states opted to enroll in Social Security in the 1960s and 1970s. The remaining 13 states and a number of local governments in two others chose instead to maintain and enhance their existing retirement systems.
The Social Security system prohibits "dual entitlement" - that is receipt of earned benefits plus full survivor benefits. The Government Pension Offset, enacted as part of the 1977 Social Security Amendments, treated public pensions as though they were Social Security benefits, thus instituting dual entitlement provisions. Spousal benefits were offset dollar for dollar beginning in December 1982. Women who were eligible for government pensions before December 1982 were exempt for a five-year transition period. Men who were eligible for government pensions before 1982, however, were exempt from the offset only if their spouses had provided one half of their support.
Criticism of the dollar for dollar reduction was strong, especially given the unfair distinction between public employees and private employees, who could collect both a private pension and Social Security benefits. In response, Congress amended the law in 1983, reducing the dollar for dollar reduction to a two-thirds offset.
In 1986, a new Federal Employees Retirement System was enacted, with Social Security coverage as part of the plan. During an open season in the last six months of 1987, employees were given a chance to switch to the new system and thereafter be exempt from the offset. Many women were unaware of this exemption, however, and decided to stay with their original plan. As a result, they lost valuable future Social Security benefits.
The WEP was enacted in 1983. The purpose was to remove an unintended advantage that the regular Social Security benefit formula provided to persons who also had pensions from non- Social Security-covered employment. The regular formula was intended to help workers who spent their work careers in low paying jobs, by providing them with benefits that replace a higher proportion of their earnings than benefits provided for workers with high earnings. However, the formula could not differentiate between those who worked in low-paid jobs throughout their careers and other workers who appeared to have been low paid because they worked many years in jobs not covered by Social Security. Thus, under the old law, workers who were employed for only a portion of their careers in jobs covered by Social Security even highly paid ones received the advantage of the "weighted" formula. This is because their few years of covered earnings were averaged over their entire working career to determine the earnings on which their Social Security benefits were based. The WEP formula was intended to remove this advantage for these workers. Yet, instead of protecting retirees at the lowest level of Social Security earnings, the WEP has unfairly impacted federal retirees with only slightly higher earnings.
Those Affected by the GPO and WEP
The GPO and WEP impact government employees and retirees in virtually every state, but their impact is most acute in 15 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia (certain local governments), Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky (certain local governments), Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas. Nationwide, more than one- third of teachers and education employees, and more than one-fifth of other public employees, are not covered by Social Security.
The GPO affects federal, state, and local government employees - including teachers and other education employees - eligible to retire after December 1982 or later from a job not covered by Social Security. Approximately 305,000 retired federal, state, and local government employees have already been affected by the GPO. Thousands more stand to be affected in the future.
The GPO does not apply to survivor beneficiaries who are not government retirees. It also does not apply to:
• Anyone eligible for a government pension before December 1982 who meets the 1977 law requirements (a divorced woman's marriage must have lasted 20 years; a husband or widower must have been receiving one-half support from his wife);
• Anyone eligible for a government annuity before July 1, 1983 who received one-half support from the male or female spouse;
• Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees and annuitants, and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuitants who transferred to FERS;
• Former CSRS employees rehired beginning January 1, 1984, following a separation of one year or more;
• Recipients of military reserve pensions (effective January 1, 1995);
• Anyone over the age of 65 who is still working for the federal government (GPO becomes effective when the person retires and begins to receive a pension).
The WEP applies to persons who reached age 62 or became disabled after 1985 and first became eligible after 1985 for a monthly pension based on work where they did not pay Social Security taxes. It does not apply to persons eligible to retire before January 1, 1986, persons who were first employed by the government after December 31, 1983, or persons who have more than 30 years of "substantial earnings" under Social Security.
Impact of the GPO and WEP on Affected Individuals
Estimates indicate that 9 out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lose all of their spousal benefits, even though their deceased spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years. Moreover, these estimates do not include those public employees or retirees who never applied for spousal benefits because they were informed they were ineligible.
The GPO and WEP have the harshest impact on those who can least afford the loss: lower-income women.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the GPO reduces benefits for some 200,000 individuals by more than $3,600 a year. The WEP causes low-paid public employees outside the Social Security system, like teachers and other education employees, to lose up to sixty percent of the Social Security benefits to which they are entitled. Ironically, the loss of these benefits may make these women and men eligible for more costly assistance, such as food stamps.
There are also a significant number of people eligible for retirement who have been forced back into the workforce to make up for the effects of the GPO.
Some individuals can be affected by both the GPO and WEP. The application of these provisions can have a severe impact on the financial security of retirees who have spent some portion of their working careers serving the public (e.g., educators, police officers, fire fighters, and many other federal, state and local government workers).
Why the GPO and WEP are Unfair
The GPO and WEP substantially reduce benefits that workers and spouses had counted on when planning their retirement. The arbitrary WEP formula does not eliminate "windfalls." Rather, because of its regressive nature, the WEP causes a relatively larger reduction in benefits to low- paid workers. It also penalizes lower paid workers with short careers or those whose careers are evenly split inside and outside the Social Security system.
A significant number of teachers have decided to turn to teaching late in life after years in private sector employment. Many women work part time in the education profession while also spending more time at home to raise their children. These educators have relatively limited service and their chosen career path provides a modest public pension. Individuals who held jobs in Social Security covered employment, or who are eligible for Social Security based on their spouse's covered employment, should be able to count on a more equitable share of that income to sustain them through their retirement years.
The Impact of the GPO and WEP on the Teaching Profession
Record enrollments in public schools and the projected retirements of thousands of veteran teachers are driving an urgent need for teacher recruitment. Critical efforts to reduce class sizes also necessitate hiring additional teachers. Estimates for the number of new teachers needed range from 2.2 to 2.7 million by 2009.
The GPO and WEP are impacting the recruitment of quality teachers to meet these urgent shortages. At the same time that policymakers are encouraging experienced people to change, careers and enter the teaching profession, individuals who have worked in other careers are less likely to want to become teachers if doing so will mean a loss of Social Security benefits they have earned. Some states seeking to entice retired teachers to return to the classroom have found them reluctant to return to teaching because of the impact of the GPO and WEP. In addition, current teachers are increasingly likely to leave the profession to reduce the penalty they will incur upon retirement.
What can be Done to Address the GPO and WEP
Various members of Congress have introduced GPO and/or WEP legislation. In the 107th Congress, Representatives McKeon (R-CA) and Berman (D-CA) have introduced a bill (H.R. 2638) to repeal both the GPO and WEP. Senator Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced this same bill (S. 1523) in the Senate.
Representative Jefferson (D-LA) and Senator Mikulski (D-MD) have also introduced bills (H.R. 664/S. 611) that would protect low- and middle-income public retirees by eliminating the offset for the first $1,200 of combined monthly benefits. In 2001, a bipartisan majority of Members of the United States House of Representatives cosponsored Representative Jefferson's GPO legislation. Despite this strong support, however, congressional leaders failed to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
Representative Frank (D-MA) has introduced legislation (H.R. 1073) to address the WEP by restricting its application to individuals whose combined monthly benefits exceed $2,000. The bill would also provide for a graduated implementation of the WEP above the $2,000 threshold, up to 100 percent for combined amounts over $3,000. Representative Sandlin (D-TX) has introduced legislation (H.R. 848) to eliminate the WEP.

RH Jones to the Norton School Board re: HB 315

RH Jones to Diane Farmer, November 28, 2007
Subject: Re: To All 21
Ms. Farmer:
Thank you for answering my letter.
Do you realize that there will be not HC for you in 2020?You, as a STRS member for 25-yrs.+, will be without HC. What if you become catastrophically disabled? No private insurance company will insure you, or any other badly ill STRS retiree.
As far as your statement that: "...recent past mismanagement by STRS." That has been corrected. The manager, Herb Dyer, was let go and we now have a whole new STRS board. There are a few minor problems presently, but they are being democratically corrected. The STRS is a democratic organization. Also, by the way, Ohio's Taft administration was also voted out of office. Neglect of the public school systems was rampant under him. And where was the OSBA and the Norton board when mismanaged charter schools were, and still are, draining scarce tax dollars away from public school districts?
The $250,000 per year cost per year that you mentioned the treasurer came up with is also questionable. How did he arrive at that figure?
The OSBA, nor Norton, has mentioned a viable alternative! School boards, therefore, need to do the right thing and back HB 315.
Robert Hudson Jones .
From Diane Farmer, November 28, 2007
Subject: Re: To All 21
Mr. Jones
Thank you for taking the time to write. I'm not sure why the e-mail keeps coming- I had received 4 copies of it before I read the first one and by the time I finished, another one showed up in my inbox.
As a member of STRS for the twenty+ years I've been in education, I see both sides of this issue. In conversations with colleagues about HB 315 it is hard not to sympathize with the increase in HC costs for retirees. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore the publicized recent past mismanagement of funds by STRS. I'm not convinced school districts are responsible to make up for this mismanagement.
Our treasurer has informed us the cost to the district would be nearly a quarter of a million dollars annually. This is not a modest increase in my opinion.
Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to our letter to the press.
Diane Farmer
RH Jones to Diane Farmer, Norton SchBd, November 28, 2007
Subject: To All 21
To all Norton school board members:
Re: your "Oppose the increase" editorial recently published in the West Side Leader and the Barberton Herald.
Contrary to your editorial, House Bill 315 will not impact the quality of teacher in the Norton School District. It will do just the opposite: good teachers are attracted to districts that provide retirement health care (HC). And you seem not to understand that the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) is restricted by state statute from increasing retired member HC. HB 315 will change that.
Since the last employer increase nearly 30-years ago, retired members of the STRS have been carrying the Ohio School Districts through high inflation. It is time school boards stepped up to their responsibilities. Educators, increasingly, are being physically and mentally assaulted in the schools. And, how about the recent increase in school staph infections? Seriously, do you want your retired teachers without HC?
In 2007, The STRS Ohio retirees will pay 48% of the HC programs estimated costs of $485 million through their premiums, deductibles co-payments and out-pocket costs. A Law that requires its current retirees to share such a large portion of the cost restricts no other Ohio retirement system.
The STRS recipients in Ohio receive almost $4 billion in retirement, survivor and disability benefits each year. This is money that they spend in their communities ?many of whom live, vote and pay taxes in Norton. This money helps to fuel local economies. The demise of the HC program will severely impact the purchasing power of these retirees. Therefore, without the passage of HB 315, retired educators will certainly not be financially able to support local school levies. Traditionally, retired teachers have always been called on for levy support.
The STRS, with the backing of the majority of Ohio?s active teachers, is asking only for a modest employer increase. The Norton school boards uninformed and inept decision to oppose HB 315 has hurt they image of Norton schools and our city.
Robert Hudson Jones, Norton resident and retired STRS member

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

RH Jones: For retired educators who vote in the 86th District

From RH Jones, November 27, 2007

Dear 86th District retired educators:

Your State Representative, of the 86th House District, David T. Daniels, was kind enough to answer my post card sent to him recently. However, he did not mention whether he is for or against HB 315 (the employer health care increase) or his political party. Please read his letter quoted below and, as a voter, you be his judge. Here’s his letter sent Nov. 7, 2007:

“Dear Robert and Jacqueline,

Thank you for your letter in regard to House Bill 315. I am sympathetic to the rising care costs and the significant decline in health care coverage. This piece of legislation has been referred to the Ohio House Financial Institutions, Real Estate, and Securities Committee, and as a member of that committee, I will be sure to raise your concerns when given the opportunity.

Thank you again for writing concerning House Bill 315. Please feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions and do not hesitate to contact my office in the future.


David T. Daniels

State Representative, 86th Ohio House district”

I do hope that the Chair of the FIRES CMTE, Rep. Chris Widener, will give Rep. Daniels the opportunity to raise my concerns for the passage of this important, necessary and inflation fighting health care bill for retired educators. Retired educators have carried Ohio’s School Districts long enough, after 28-years, it is time they faced reality and pay their fair share. After all, a shared sacrifice is a shared reward; Ohio will be better for doing what is right for their retired educators.

Ohio representatives, if you can read this, thank a retired teacher by demanding that HB 315 is taken out of the FIRE CMTE and is placed back on the floor for a positive approval vote. What a nice Holiday Season gift for retired educators; your favorite teacher would certainly appreciate it and thank you for it!

A most humble servant of children for 30-years,

Robert Hudson Jones, a STRS retired member

Monday, November 26, 2007

RH Jones: Businesses and young teachers leaving Ohio

From RH Jones, November 26, 2007
To all:
Re: businesses and young teachers are leaving Ohio
Not being able to “see the forest for the trees” is the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) and the Ohio Association of Business Officials (OABO). Together they are inducing, with their shortsightedness, future businesses and young educators to leave Ohio. In reality, obviously, they do not understand that inflation has been raging in the intervening 30 years, or so; and, during those years, that the traditional school board employers have not had any increase in their contribution rate - the educators have.
Furthermore, college students majoring in business and in education are intelligent enough to know that successful businesses need an educated population to compete in the highly technical world market. And, since public education provides trained and trainable citizens, along with an active teacher competitive pay scale and health care package, educators need to be assured of health care (HC) in retirement. Common sense dictates that retiree HC is a natural part of any attractive package for those seeking, or staying employed, in the field of education.
Seeking cheaper alternatives just will not provide the quality in education that is demanded by today’s Ohio’s population. Lame excuses and procrastination will not solve the problem either. The leadership of Ohio needs to move forward and get the House Bill 315 out of the FIRES Committee, and to work for it’s passage into Ohio law. After the last ten or more years without a growing economy, HB 315 is part of getting Ohio moving once again!
Most certainly, astute business people not only want an educated work force, they want the best for their children and their children’s teachers. They, the active and retired educators, will be closely watching the Ohio legislators on this modest request for a public school employer increase made available in the HB 315. Also, those elected school board members, who may lack the foresight to understand the dynamics in the relationship of education to business, will be taken to task for their opposition of this necessary change in the HC funding law that will benefit all Ohioans.
Without the forward movement mentioned above, the State of Ohio can expect to pay out more taxes on local jails and state prisons. For without support of a good public education the criminal element will grow even more expensive and larger.
Respectfully submitted, and the personal opinion of:
Robert Hudson Jones, a retired STRS member

Columbus Dispatch: Health costs hurt pension systems

Teachers, school employees
Health costs hurt pension systems
Monday, November 26, 2007
(Click image to enlarge)
Last year, the pension system for Ohio teachers covered an average of more than $4,200 in health-care costs per retired teacher, an increase of more than 20 percent from 1998 levels.

Nonteaching school employees drew an average of more than $3,700 in health-care costs from their pension system last year, also a steady climb from 1998 levels and a trend expected to continue.

New and better prescription drugs and longer life spans are behind the increases. The trend, however, will bankrupt the pension system's health-care funds unless something is done about it, say leaders of the State Teachers Retirement System and School Employees Retirement System.

Officials with the teachers' pension system want teachers and school districts to dig a little deeper into their pockets to cover the rising expenses. That idea has run into stiff opposition from school districts, who say it will hurt students by diverting money from the classroom.

The retirement system for other school employees proposes bumping up the reduced-benefit retirement age from 60 to 62, and requiring employees to have 10 years of tenure rather than five to receive a full pension at age 65. The proposal is not controversial.

Both pension systems say the changes are needed to keep providing health care for retired educators in the long term. They pointedly note that the law requires them to provide only pension benefits, not health care, for their retirees.

"What's driving all of this is health-care costs," said Aristotle L. Hutras, executive director of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, which analyzes trends for the five state pension systems. "Pensions aren't in trouble at all."

The State Teachers Retirement System has seen its health-care bills soar from $259 million in 2001 to $490 million in 2006. Under current trends, the system will run out of money to cover health-care expenses of retired teachers around 2021.

Pension leaders are backing legislation that would increase contributions by both teachers and school districts by 2.5 percent, phased in over five years. For the first time, current teachers would pay into the health-care fund. (Retired teachers' contributions account for a little less than half of the fund's revenue.)

"We know that with health-care-cost trends being what they are, that fund is eventually going to run out of money," said Laura Ecklar, spokeswoman for the teachers' pension fund. "That's why we're proposing this to create a dedicated revenue stream to keep that fund going. When that fund goes dry, that's when the program ends."

Universities, whose faculty are members of the teachers' pension, and Ohio's largest teachers' union both back the proposal to shore up the health-care fund by squeezing teachers and school districts.

"We achieved consensus that the only way to maintain this health-care benefit is to create a dedicated revenue stream to fund it," said Bill Leibensperger, vice president of the Ohio Education Association and co-chair of a group that examined ways to maintain health care.

"This is not really a solution. It's a fix. We have a national health-care funding crisis."

The Ohio School Boards Association opposes the proposal, saying it would saddle the state's school districts with $250 million a year in contributions to the pension system on top of the $1.2 billion they already pay.

"We just think that enough is enough," said Fred Pausch, the association's director of legislative services. "We think the (State Teachers Retirement System) should deal with this on their own without trying to pass it onto the backs of Ohio schoolchildren."

A separate proposal to raise retirement ages for bus drivers, attendance clerks, custodians and other nonteaching school employees has not drawn any organized opposition. The School Employees Retirement System devised the legislation to get a handle on health-care costs, which have risen from $174 million in 2001 to $229 million last year.

Without a change, the health-care fund will run out of money in 2014, say officials from the school employees' pension.

They're backing legislation to cut benefits for early retirees and to toughen eligibility requirements for full retirement. The changes would apply only to new hires. The legislation would save $3 million in its first year and eventually cut more than $500 million from projected annual health-care costs, School Employees Retirement System officials forecast.

"We're trying to urge our folks to work a little longer," said James R. Winfree, executive director of the pension system.

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