Friday, May 23, 2008

Getting Paid Not to Teach?

From John Curry, May 23, 2008

Subject: Getting Paid Not to Teach?
Imagine how enjoyable life would have been if you never had to teach a class but got paid handsomely for staying out of the classroom! Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, this is happening every year to some in the pharmaceutical industry! Every year patents expire on brand-name medications which means (so you think) that good news is here as now there will be a generic equivalent Rx manufactured so that you finally can save some bucks, right?
Well, not so fast - you see, in the pill manufacturing world, some pharmaceutical companies will pay other competitor pharmaceutical manufacturers to not manufacture a generic equivalent for the Rx that is coming off the patent! This means that the manufacturer of the formerly patented Rx continues to have the monopoly for that particular pill and so the price is not lowered due to competition....kinda' nice, don't you think? Nice, that is, for the pillmaker.... but not for your wallet!
The Federal Trade Commission is now interested in these deals between pharmaceutical manufacturers and considers them a violation of U.S. anti-trust laws. For more, click here to see what may happen next:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oakland County (MI) Sues Blue Cross Blue Shield

From John Curry, May 21, 2008
...a Michigan they wouldn't do that, would they?
Oakland County Sues Blue Cross Blue Shield
Hidden "access fees" have cost it millions
Friday May 16th, 2008
Chad Halcom
Crain's Detroit Business
Oakland County is suing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to recover potentially millions of dollars in fees it says were hidden, in a case that could set a precedent for other self-insured employers.

The county brought the lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court in October, claiming it only became aware of the so-called “access fees” that have been part of Blues administrative services contracts since the 1990s and has been secretly billed more than $10 million dating to 2001.

“They were taking in all our patient and administrative charges and adding in a factor to that charge for things like its network maintenance and billing us and not explaining that to us,” said Keith Lerminiaux, Oakland County deputy corporation counsel, who is working on the case. William Horton, partner in Troy-based Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton P.C., is co-counsel.

Last week, Oakland County Circuit Judge Daniel O'Brien ruled the company must pay sanctions and comply with a document request by Wednesday in a lawsuit alleging it has billed Oakland County for millions of dollars in hidden “access fees.”

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

WV educators going back to defined benefits?

From John Curry, May 21, 2008
Subject: WV educators kicking defined contributions out!?
Shawn Falkenstein, 05/21/2008
Morgantown, W.Va.
It appears teachers in West Virginia are in favor of returning to the old defined-benefits retirement system. WAJR-AM has obtained vote totals for 16 counties. 14 of them reached the necessary 65 percent to move back to the old system....only those in Brooke (63%) and Berkeley (52%) failed to reach the 65 percent threshold.
The vote tallies for other counties: Monongalia County (73%) voted to return to the old system, Taylor (75%) Upsher (82%), Wyoming (95%), Hancock (67%), Mercer (84%), Cabell (78%), Mineral (72%), Lincoln (75%), Morgan (75%), Wayne (90%), Wirt (80%), Summers (89%), and Nicholas (83%).
Teachers and service personnel had several weeks to submit their votes on whether or not they wanted to go back to the old system.
The new state law says 65 percent of the nearly 20-thousand teachers and service personnel much agree to the switch for it to happen.
If between 65% and 75% of the teachers eligible approve the change, they'll return to the defined benefit plan at the 75% level with the option of purchasing the remaining 25%.
If more than 75% of the teachers eligible approve the change, the remaining 25% could be purchased at a lower cost of what it would be if between 65% and 75% of the eligible teachers approve the switch.
The final tally will be announced in June.

Minutes of May 15, 2008 CORE meeting

Minutes for the CORE Meeting held on May 15, 2008 at the STRS building Columbus Ohio
The May 15, 2008 CORE meeting was called to order by President Dave Parshall at 11:40 a.m. Dave immediately introduced STRS Board member John Lazares. Mr. Lazares spoke to the CORE members in attendance for more than 40 minutes. John thanked CORE for its support of him and Dennis Leone over the years, and he urged CORE to continue constituted as it has been in the past because there is still a great need for a watchdog group to protect our pension. He pointed to the term limits guiding our state legislature. Because of term limits most legislators are no longer a members of OPERS. Thus the temptation will grow even greater in the future to alter our pension, or to use our pension fund to fund state projects or to help balance the budget. This has already happened in other states.
After Mr. Lazares left, the business meeting was called to order. The reading of the minutes was dispensed with and the treasurer's report was given by Dave Parshall for C.J. Myers. We had more than 42 checks in our mail box last week. Thanks will be sent to many of those members contributing and a general alert thanking all who sent donations, and reminding members to continue to dig deep, as CORE’s work must go forward. Under Old Business the recent election results were discussed. Dave Parshall and Nancy Hamant put the results in perspective. Only 32,000 out of a possible nearly 200,000 active teachers even bothered to vote. We were outspent by OEA by a ton, but even with all their money spent there was a poor turnout. CORE’s name was sent out to all corners of the state and much was learned about possible strategies for our next election efforts.
Under New Business the future of CORE was finalized after a three month discussion. It was decided that CORE must to go forward and that we need to keep the organization and constitution as before. Members stepped forward to fill and complete the needed board seats and slate of officers for the fall election when new terms of office begin. Ryan Holderman was asked and agreed to write a constitutional amendment to reinstate annual dues at the $10.00 level. They will be due and collected at our annual meeting in September. This was agreed upon by a unanimous vote. The amendment will be discussed/reviewed at our June meeting and voted on at our August meeting. Dave thanked all who stepped forward to serve. The new brochure was discussed and copies of ideas from Molly Janczyk were handed out. The need for bullet points was discussed and a call for more ideas was made. Members were encouraged to send suggestions to Dave Parshall. CORE President Dave Parshall handed out copies of his written rebuttal to the talking points found on the Whitehall School District Education Association web site. It will be (has been) sent out to all CORE members to use as they wish. Dave will send a personal copy and cover letter to the President of the Whitehall Education Association.
Members in attendance: Dave Parshall, Ruby and Herman Fisher, Nancy Hamant, George Justice, Kathie Bracy, Carole DePaola, Marie Fetters, Ryan Holderman, Donna Thorp, Nancy Boomhower, Mary Thomas, Molly Ganz, Boyd Kultus, Lou DiOrio, Lloyd Knudsen and Barbara Carvey.
Minutes compiled by Dave Parshall and Marie Fetters

Ryan Holderman: Active and retired teachers need to unite and actively lobby for the passage of Ohio House Bill 315

From Ryan Holderman, May 21, 2008
What to expect.
Dear Colleagues:
Ohio's teachers are facing a crisis in health care expenses when they retire. While employed, most teachers enjoy excellent health care coverage at minimal cost due to the provisions of negotiated contracts with their school system.
Upon retirement the cost of health care increases significantly particularly for those who have not yet reached age 65.
The following information is based on 2008 MONTHLY premiums for coverage available to retirees in our area of Ohio:
Medical Mutual Basic Plan (all are based on 30 years of service)
Retiree: $111
Spouse: $362
Child: $130
Aetna Basic Plan:
Retiree: $145
Spouse: $388
Child: $130
Medical Mutual PPO:
Retiree: $181
Spouse: $669
Child: $209
Aetna PPO:
Retiree: $235
Spouse: $717
Child: $209
It is estimated that health care costs for 2009 will increase 13%.
All teachers nearing retirement need to be aware of the financial burden they will face for health care upon retirement.
Active and retired teachers need to unite and actively lobby for the passage of Ohio House Bill 315!
Ryan Holderman
PS: Please pass this information on to your colleagues!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dennis Leone enlightens Jim McGreevy on reality of search process for new STRS leader

Jim McGreevy to Dennis Leone, May 19, 2008
Subject: Report Addendum

Dennis --
Thanks for the information on the ED search process. I will send an addendum to my Board Meeting report tomorrow to OEA-R members. The text of that is copied below. I'm glad to hear that the possible reasons I cited for the delay were off-target.
- Jim

After sending my STRS Board Report yesterday, I received an email from Board member Dennis Leone that sheds more light on the Executive Director search process.
Dr. Leone reports that thus far the Board has “spent three days in executive session interviewing candidates…and one day discussing the candidates privately” among themselves as well as consulting with Hudepohl & Associates, the headhunter firm hired to assist in the nationwide search. Leone described these sessions as “very productive” and characterized by a spirit of genuine collaboration among Board members. He confirmed a rumor that two candidates were in Columbus on Wednesday to meet with senior STRS staff as well as the Board.
Leone stated unequivocally that none of the reasons I had speculated were the cause of the delay in hiring a successor to Damon Asbury were at issue, but that the Board is “taking our time, doing it right, carefully checking references, having multiple interviews with candidates who look good, giving all board members the chance to ask all questions desired, and trying our hardest to develop a consensus, which, thus far, is occurring - it appears 10-0.”
Although no one is suggesting a firm timetable, it appears from this report that the process is on track for a successful resolution.

Search For New Executive Director Continues
[From Jim McGreevy's original report to OEA-R on the May 2008 STRS Board meeting]
The Friday session of the May meeting of the Board was punctuated by frequent and lengthy executive sessions to interview candidates for the soon-to-be-vacated post of STRS Executive Director and other related issues. Damon Asbury’s retirement is set to begin July 1, so time is growing short to settle on a candidate, agree to contract provisions, and get the new ED on board to assure a smooth transition.
There had been some speculation that an announcement might be made at Friday’s meeting, but the Board spent the majority of time that day in executive session, cancelled a planned report on the new computer system, and returned to the open session only to conclude routine business matters in a brief twenty-three minute sprint to adjournment. No information as to progress or problems was provided, further fueling speculation as to what the holdup may be. Is it lack of a suitable candidate, dissension among members of the Board, a snag in contract negotiations with the preferred candidate, or some other issue? No one is saying, but the Board continues to project a unified, positive view that the position would be filled with a highly qualified person to lead the system.

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RH Jones: HB 315 MUST pass - contact your legislators NOW

From RH Jones, May 20, 2008
Subject: Fw: Retirees & actives....some disturbing hc premium increase news for STRS retirees projected for 2009...try 10% & 13.6% !!!!!!!!!!!!!

To all:

You have to contact your legislators NOW. If you have already contacted them, do so again. This MUST pass! [HB 315] With all our other increasing expenses, we teachers truly and dearly need this for this year so that we can servive next year! We educators are ALL on the same page on this.

RHJones, CORE, ORTA and OEA-R member

Monday, May 19, 2008

STRS announces preliminary estimates for 2009 health care premiums

From John Curry, May 19, 2008
Subject: Retirees & actives....some disturbing hc premium increase news for STRS retirees projected for 2009...try 10% & 13.6% !!!!!!!!!!!!!

From a report to the OEA-R re. the May STRS Board meeting:

"Regardless, the window of opportunity for HB 315 to work properly is going to close in the near future. It must pass in 2009, and for that to happen there will have to be a change in the majority party in the Ohio House."

"Preliminary Health Care Premium Estimates Presented

Preliminary estimates of 2009 health care premiums for STRS’ self-insured programs were presented. The estimates are based on claims experience for 2005, 2006, and 2007. This data suggests that an average increase in premiums in the neighborhood of 13.6% for non-Medicare enrollees and 10% for Medicare enrollees is likely. Specific increases for different “risk pools” will cause some variance around those average figures. For example, non-Medicare, 30-year Benefit Recipients on the “Basic Plan” are expected to see no increase in monthly premiums, while spouse coverage could be increased by $97 for the same coverage. Exact figures will be presented at the June Board meeting and will also reflect claims experience for the first three months of 2008 as well as industry trends data.

Some key factors in determining 2009 premiums include:
• No plan design changes for 2009;
• Continue the “2004 member premium contribution strategy” in 2009;
• Facilitate understanding of HB 315 among legislators by sustaining current plan design while our legislative initiative is in progress;
• Continue the current benefit structure until program costs require consistent use of principal from the STRS Health Care Stabilization Fund (HCSF) – now projected to occur between 2008 and 2010.

Due to sub-par investment performance in the current fiscal year, STRS expects to have to dip into the principal later this year to pay 2008 health care bills. However, the “consistent use of principal” can be affected by better investment performance and other factors, so it is unclear if this year is the start of the dreaded “death spiral” of the HCSF or just a temporary aberration. Regardless, the window of opportunity for HB 315 to work properly is going to close in the near future. It must pass in 2009, and for that to happen there will have to be a change in the majority party in the Ohio House.

Regarding other ways to cut premiums, STRS Health Care Director, Greg Nickel, said that it is difficult to hold down premiums through cost reductions because it take $5 million dollars in savings to produce just a $1 decrease in monthly health care premiums for STRS members."

Note from John:
Let's see....for a non-medicare aged retiree and his/her spouse a 13.6% increase from the current $850 monthly healthcare premium would add $115.60 for a new 2009 monthly premium of...are you ready for this............... $965.60 per month premium!
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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