Friday, April 26, 2019

Tom Luvison to STRS Board: Why the big discrepancy in Rx cost?

Tom Luvison of the retired unit of the Cleveland Teachers Union Local 279 (CTU Local 279-R) addressed the STRS Board on April 18, 2019 from notes he had before him. He later summarized his remarks in a report he wrote for the 279-R newsletter, and shares it with us below. 
Ordinarily I defer to 279-R Executive Board members Dan McDonald and Rob Walters on matters of STRS health insurance and Express Scripts Rx coverage. However, since I commented on an Express Scripts prescription cost concern at the public participation session of the April 18, 2019 STRS Board meeting, this month's article will be the exception. 
In my comments to the STRS Board, I first greeted the assembly with "Good morning to the STRS Board, staff, stakeholders (us) and guests." 
The Board and staff were thanked for the efficient services provided STRS Retirees. The thank you was given sincerely, as it is a fact that retirement benefits are received each month without fail and most other services are handled most professionally. 
The Board was then informed that I share the same concerns previous speakers had expressed about the loss of our COLA and the need to restore it. I continued that even though I shared their concerns about the COLA I would speak on another matter-a prescription cost mystery. 
My personal Rx experience had me paying a small fraction of the cost of a drug (Dipentum) at a hospital pharmacy as opposed to what Express Scripts charged for the same drug. Why is there such a cost discrepancy? I requested an answer from the STRS Board. 
On April 19, 2019 the STRS staff reached out to me on the matter and asked that I provide more details as they could not address my concern because STRS believes that Express Scripts is following the Medicare Part D guidelines on Rx costs. Well, stay tuned as I attempt to help STRS research this Rx mystery. 
In closing I would offer that Express Scripts has already made attempts to improve their policies and methods for servicing our Rx needs. In a Cleveland CTU office meeting with STRS staff and 279-R Executive Board members some years ago grievances about Express Scripts were presented and a system to resolve prescription problems was agreed upon.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Robin Rayfield to STRS Board: Making current retirees wait till 2034 is unacceptable!

Robin Rayfield's speech to STRS Board
April 18, 2019
Greetings STRS Board of Trustees and Staff. My Name is Robin Rayfield and I represent the Ohio Retired Teachers Association. I am a STRS beneficiary, having retired in 2011 after 30+ years of service.
I want to acknowledge the Board’s recent discussion regarding the Funding Policy at STRS and this policy’s impact on current retirees; specifically COLA. ORTA members are encouraged by the board’s decision to discuss this policy and encourage more detailed discussions on this policy and its implications.
The current Funding Policy and the notion that benefit enhancements/COLAs are not feasible until the system reaches a level of 100% funding are of great concern. Let me be clear, ORTA supports the Board’s desire to achieve a funding status of 100%. ORTA disagrees, however, that this desire should be a policy. It is unacceptable for ORTA members to be denied increases in benefits until 2034. Under the current Funding Policy a great % of current retirees will not be alive in 2034 when STRS will achieve a level of 100% funding.
Instead, ORTA believes that progress should be made toward the goal of reaching 100% funding, but that this goal or guiding principle should not prevent retirees from receiving what was guaranteed at the time of their retirement.
Certainly, retirees have been patient and have demonstrated this patience over the last few years of losing their benefits. However, now is the time for the Board of Trustees to abandon the 100% status as a policy and, instead, view 100% funding status as a goal or guiding policy. Progress towards this goal is reasonable, adherence to this as a policy resulting in a failure to meet obligations is not acceptable.
ORTA suggests that the Board review historical funding levels STRS has experienced as a guide to determine policy development, not an unrealistic 100% funding level. I’m sure that you will determine that STRS has rarely achieved a 100% funding level and has historically been at a level nearer to where we are at currently than 100%.
In closing, I suggest that STRS use the following analogy as this discussion unfolds:
Comparing STRS’s funding levels to our current levels of CO2 and their impact on climate change makes sense to me. We should reduce carbon emissions as it is good for our planet, just as making progress on reaching 100% funding is good for our pension system. However, we need fossil fuels to heat our homes, provide power to our factories, and to power our vehicles. The US has reduced emissions and has policies in place to reduce emissions; however, we all drove here to this meeting today. STRS should develop policies that allow retirees to continue to receive what they were promised, while making progress towards a 100% funding status.”

Monday, April 22, 2019

Paul Pytak to STRS Board: Give us back our COLA!

Paul Pytak spoke to the STRS Board off-the-cuff on April 18, 2019. He wrote out his remarks later, for publication here.
An approximate recap of the speech given to the STRS Board in Columbus on April 18, 2019 by Paul F. Pytak, AFT 279-R.
Members of the STRS Board, Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak – I will keep it short.
I have approximately 22 years with the system. I don’t have 35 or 30 years.
I’m the fellow who spoke six months ago about the price of bananas and wash cloths. Six months have passed and nothing has been done about our COLA Cost of Living Allowance. The Assistant Director of Investment makes over seven hundred thousand dollars a year; it will take me over ten years to earn what he received in just six months!
Before I retired I went to the STRS meetings. I asked and was specifically told on more than one occasion that we would received a Cost Of Living Allowance.
There is a fiduciary obligation on the part of STRS. Fiduciary, meaning trust, a legal and a moral obligation which has not been kept.
A (investment) gentleman spoke of opportunities. What happened to the opportunities of ten years ago. These (investment) fellows, do you think they are here because they love you? They are here because they want our money! They will tell you anything.
In the past, I was a Federal Auditor for the National Credit Union Administration. Credit Unions are limited by the Federal Government as to what they may invest in. They may not make a lot of money, but at least they don’t lose money.
I noticed that in the financial papers there is reference to high salaries and bonuses. Do these people think they are the only ones that can do this job. Some of us also have accounting backgrounds and are quite capable.
In the end you can’t take all of this money with you. The only thing you can take with you are your “good deeds.” But to have good deeds you need a conscience.
If all of these people at STRS were doing a good job, we would not have to be here. Give us back our COLA!
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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