Ohio public pensions: What’s really going on?

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Ohio public pensions: What’s really going on?

Some of Ohio public pension systems are looking to make significant changes to shore up the pension and health care funds. 

Here’s a look at what is happening: 

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WHAT ARE THE CHANGES? 

• If approved by Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund trustees, retired cops and firefighters will no longer receive health care benefits through their pension fund beginning in 2019. Instead, they’ll receive a stipend to shop on the open market. 

• Retired teachers won’t receive a cost of living allowance. That was indefinitely suspended earlier this month by the trustees of that pension system.  The change is needed to improve the solvency of the pension fund but the State Teachers Retirement System is also looking for ways to stretch limited health care money too.

• Retired school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors and others may soon lose their cost of living allowance as the School Employees Retirement System moves to shore up its finances.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED? 

The changes will impact 490,000 teachers and retirees in Ohio, 292,000 school workers and retirees, and 58,000 retired police and firefighters in the state. 

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? 

Ohio law provides for public employee pensions but doesn’t require health care for those retirees, though all five systems offer it. Changes to COLAs and to retiree health care offerings come as the pension funds face higher drug prices, spiraling medical costs, people living longer and a volatile stock market.

WHAT’S NEXT? 

Trustees are debating options to keep the pension funds strong and make limited health care money last longer. OP&F, SERS and STRS are all considering changes now or in the coming months.

REACTION 

“We anticipate that in the next couple of years something drastic will happen with health care and we’ll be in the same situation as some of the other state systems — out in the marketplace, hunting for coverage.” - Retired Beavercreek teacher Linda Beaver. 

“Prescription drugs is the beast that everyone keeps chasing. Drugs eat up more and more of the health care pie.” - Gary Russell, benefits director for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio 

“There is not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t call me because they just heard about it and they’re wondering how they’ll take care of their families.” - Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police

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