Monday, September 19, 2016

PERI Luncheon to Feature Guest Speaker

Steve Toth, who was elected to the Ohio Public Employee Retirees (OPERS) Board of Trustees in 2014, and serves as its Retiree Representative, will be the guest speaker at a luncheon meeting sponsored by the Darke County Chapter of Public Employee Retirees, Inc. (PERI). The meeting will be Monday, October 3, 11:30 a.m., at the VFW on Ohio Street in Greenville.

Reservations for the luncheon, which is $9.00 per person, must be in by Wednesday, September 28. Retirees, who are not members of PERI but who are eligible to retire with OPERS pensions, are welcome to attend by calling Vivian Nieport, Attendance and Contact Chairman, at 937-548-3961. PERI members will be contacted as usual by the PERI calling committee.

Toth, who retired with 30 years of service in human resources administration, was also a member of PERI before he became one of eleven members who comprise the OPERS Board of Trustees. In light of a recent OPERS bulletin confirming that OPERS is the largest public pension system in Ohio, the 11th largest in the nation and supports more than 1 million members and retirees, he admits that while his job has challenges, it has also been worthwhile. He said, "Even though I am working harder and am putting in more time than I did before I retired, I like what I am doing and welcome the opportunity to be of service to both our retirees and OPERS."

According to a report from OPERS, currently over 145,000 public employee retirees and their spouses are nearing the end of a year that brought about one of the most challenging and largest transitions of its kind ever to happen in the United States. Faced by the increasing costs of health care and prescription drugs that threatened the future solvency of their health care system, OPERS Trustees decided to select Towers Watson to administer their Medicare Connector. Towers Watson is one of the largest and longest standing private Medicare exchanges in the country. As a result, it has been able to offer OPERS retirees more health care plan choices at more affordable prices.

One advantage has been a Health Reimbursement Allowance, HRA, which reimburses eligible retirees for the costs of their health plan premiums, out-of-pocket drug costs, and expenses such as dental and eye care that might not be covered by their selected health care plans. However, this allowance will decrease every year over a three-year period, which will also impact spouses, who beginning in 2018 will no longer be eligible for health care under their husband's or wife's insurance. The question remains as to whether another HRA will be made available in 2019 and beyond, which could be used toward helping to supplement unfunded spousal support.

During Toth's presentation to PERI, he will focus not only on past and present concerns, but also on what OPERS Health Care Plan Recipients can expect during the pending Open Enrollment Period, which will take place between October 15 and December 7 of this year. As a result, PERI urges everyone who is planning to attend his presentation to read the OPERS 2017 Open Enrollment Bulletin which was sent out the first week of September, and which will enable them to determine what questions they might want to ask.

For example, one question that came up during a recent PERI informational seminar at the Greenville Public Library was whether retirees who have been receiving their insurance coverage in 2016 will need to enroll again in 2017. As explained in the Bulletin, if retirees are happy with their 2016 medical and/or prescription drug coverage, no action is needed. Their plans and the funds that are left in their HRA will automatically carry over into 2017. However, if they decide to change plans, they WILL need to contact and inform One Exchange during the open enrollment period. One Exchange will also need to be informed about how they want to apply their HRA funds since these funds do not automatically change with the change of plans.

Because of Toth's experience and expertise, Ruth Dailey, PERI Vice President said, "With Open Enrollment beginning in October, we could not ask for better timing to have him speak. In addition to our members, we hope other OPERS retirees will join us in taking advantage of the opportunity to benefit from his knowledge."

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