Ohio’s Betrayal Update, Part 2 – The Response

Ohio’s Betrayal Update, Part 2

OP&F Responds

Betray: verb | bi-tra to fail or desert, especially in time of need
(Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Editors Note: Starting January 2, 2019, Law Officer has been reporting on the betrayal of Ohio’s Retired Public Safety Veterans.

In a nutshell, it concerns the reneging of promised healthcare that was taken away from already retired Police Officers and Firefighters in Ohio.

In our last article, we published Anne Glorioso’s (an Insurance Professional and wife of an active Ohio Firefighter) response to a letter written by the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Board (AKA OP&F). We requested a response from the pension board and any of Ohio’s elected representatives, and we promised that we would publish such responses. While LawOfficer still has not received anything from any of Ohio’s elected representatives, we did receive a response from David Graham, The Communications Director of OP&F.

To ensure that we are fair and accurate in our reporting, we will give Mrs. Glorioso the floor to respond to Mr. Graham’s responses, in a future article. If OP&F, Mr. Graham, or any of Ohio’s elected representatives wish to respond to this or future articles, we will also publish your responses.  Considering the negative impact this betrayal may have on Ohio’s ability to hire future generations of Police Officers and Firefighters;  we believe the public  also has a vested interest to hear what is happening to their retired protectors.  We are deeply disappointed that none of Ohio’s elected representatives have responded: Click Here To Send Email to Law Officer.

While the Law Officer Editorial Board has numerous comments and questions about some of OP&F/Mr. Graham’s responses, we are going to keep them to a minimum in this article, while upholding our promise in publishing his response. There are three simultaneous voices speaking in this article. For the convenience of our readers to more easily understand and identify where the information originates, The OP&F response/Mr. Graham’s email is displayed in italics. Mrs. Glorioso’s points from the previous article that are intertwined within Mr. Graham’s email, are in normal font, and the comments and questions from Law Officer’s Editorial Board are in bold font.


The OP&F Response/Mr. Graham’s Email Begins:


OP&F responds to misstatements by Ann Glorioso in an article which appeared on “Law Officer” posted April 12, 2019.

Everyone has a right to speak, but blogs should require commentators be at least minimally informed of the facts. Ms. Glorioso attacks police and firefighters who serve the public and their fellow public safety officers on the Board. Such unfounded attacks lead to grossly misinforming the membership of the current state of affairs. It is only a desire to make sure she and our members know the truth that leads us to respond.

Law Officer Comment: We are unsure of which “blog” was being referred to, but having millions of unique page visits annually and over one million social media followers; LawOfficer.com, the direct descendent of Law Officer Magazine, is one of the leading law enforcement media websites in existence. So we are under the belief that OP&F actually responded due to bullet points #5 & #7 of the OP&F Communications Plan. However, regardless of motivation or intent, we thank you for your prompt response.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Anne Glorioso, being a licensed insurance professional in the State of Ohio, (whose licensing standards are set by the State of Ohio) and her having decades of experience in the field, we believe her to be far more than “minimally informed,” to speak on the subject of insurance. We provided the platform for her to exercise her First Amendment right to free speech, on a subject that we find to be an unconscionable betrayal of Ohio’s Retired Public Safety Veterans.


First, the pages of a circa 1980s OP&F guidebook that outline the health care plan in effect at that time does not promise health care for life. It is simply reviews the retiree health care benefits in effect at the time – just as we produced a health care guidebook up until and including 2018.

Regardless of what is written in 30-year old booklets or how they are interpreted today, the answer remains in the Ohio Revised Code, which clearly states that the system “may” provide a retiree health care plan so long as it does not impact the ability to pay pension benefits. The OAPSE v SERS (No. 04AP-136) case from 2004 confirmed this interpretation and was just reiterated in regard to discretionary COLA benefits in OAPSE V SERS (18-CV- 891) (April 2, 2019).

 

Law Officer Comment: This is something we will never agree on. The title on the cover of the booklets is undeniable and irrefutable. (The Red, revised 3/1980, the Blue, revised 8/1984.) Both are clearly titled, “YOUR (emphasis added) Police and Firemen’s Pension Plan.” The word “your” is defined by The Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: “of or relating to you or yourself or yourselves especially as possessor or possessors.” To even further simplify, “your” is defined by The Cambridge Dictionary as “belonging to or connected with the person or people being spoken to; the possessive form of you:.” Since it was titled and distributed as “Your” Pension Plan, belonging to the individual Police Officers and Firefighters that the booklets were given to, how could it not, be theirs? More importantly, how could the contents of the booklet, being their “Pension Plan,” not apply to those it was given to, after they retired and are actually drawing a pension?


It is also essential to know that OP&F member contributions have never been used to fund retiree health care during their careers as police officers or firefighters. One hundred percent of the contributions active members pay goes to support pension benefits. The only money that goes into the health care fund is a small percentage of the employer contribution (0.5 percent). This small portion of employer contributions and investment income from what remains in the health care trust are the only funding sources for health care.

Law Officer Comment- News Story Link: “Let’s have the numbers do the talking: before 2013, 6.75% of a worker’s wage went to fund insurance. That year, it was lowered to 4.69%. and then lowered again to 2.85%.

After that, and with no vote, the contribution is down to one half of one percent.

One solution is to require cities employing members to up their contributions to the fund. Cleveland 19 talked to Tom Patton, a seasoned state representative, and he said it’s an impossible sell at the Ohio Statehouse.” -Paul Orlousky, Cleveland19, January 9, 2019.


Finally, it is very important for members to understand that lawsuits against OP&F simply drain the fund. Lawsuits do not result in additional funding sources or a single extra dollar for OP&F to pay benefits. Any award against OP&F is paid out of the same statutorily limited funds we have now. We respect all members’ right to seek redress to the courts; but respectfully suggest it seems counter-productive to the goals we all share—containing the outrageous cost of health care.


Responses to statements made by Ms. Glorioso:


1. You forgot to mention that the OP&F made a deal with Aon to restrict retirees to their plans exclusively in order to obtain their Health Reimbursement for premiums. Why?

This is not true, OP&F made no such deal. Additionally, Aon has no plans of its own. It is a broker. OP&F’s contract with Aon was to provide an exchange for retirees to shop and enroll in qualified health care plans and to handle reimbursement of qualified medical expenses. OP&F had a closed exchange in transition because moving 26,000 people, some quite elderly, at one time required tracking and support. OP&F and Aon have worked to expand the exchange, as evidenced by both CareSource and AultCare joining the exchange for 2020. The Board has already approved an open exchange for 2020 which will likewise increase choices.


2. You forgot to mention that only HMOs are offered and retirees are now unable to leave the state, as they have no health insurance coverage if they do .

This is not true. The plans available on the Aon exchange include coverage for emergencies when traveling away from home. HMOs are a tool for controlling costs. Members of course weigh the plans against what they had in a group plan which is understandable. Sadly members must weigh the exchange against no health care assistance at all- as the Board had to do.


3. You forgot to mention that in some areas, premiums are well over $1,500 per person and the retirees were forced to pay two months in advance. I am not sure where you learned your math, however, retirees were given back their healthcare premiums in their checks only to pay out more in advance than that $1,100 “savings” you quote, and then they waited for their reimbursements.

The savings referred to is for Medicare retirees, who number almost 18,000 of the transition population, including some of the most vulnerable aged up to 97 years. Once the reimbursement process is set up, retirees can be reimbursed for the expenses they choose. The pre-65 monthly stipend of $1,074 (for a pre-65 member and spouse) provides substantial relief to the expense of these plans. This spending power is increased by the fact that the contributions to the group plan that were deducted prior to Jan. 1, 2019 are now back in the monthly benefit of the retiree.


4. You forgot to mention that at the preceding transitional meetings that started in early 2018; all retirees were promised, to the effect of: just as good of coverage as you have now at similar costs, and this is simply not factual.

No promises were made in the meetings, only the best information available at the time was provided. The statement above applies to the Medicare-eligible retirees. For this group, the majority of retirees, the statement is true. The supplemental plans to which they have access are the same or better than before 2019, and on average, they are saving over a $1,000 per year compared to 2018.

Law Officer Comment-News Story Link: “At meetings all over the state, the retirees were told not to worry, that there would be offered similar plans to what they had at about the same cost when the fund stopped providing group coverage.” -Paul Orlousky, Cleveland19, January 17, 2019.


5. You forgot to mention that many retirees were only offered “short term” plans in their zip code, which is not a viable plan and they don’t cover pre-existing conditions!

No short-term plans were offered in the Aon exchange set up specifically for OP&F retirees and co-branded. Some members who did not follow the instructions and were not shopping at the correct website, have made these statements, but it is inaccurate.


6. You forgot to mention that the deductibles for these retirees are between $5,000 – $8,000 per year.

Neither OP&F nor Aon could know which plans and pricing would be approved until October for Medicare and Nov. 1, 2018 for pre-Medicare, the same time retirees began shopping. Again, OP&F cannot control the market, or health care costs. We can only provide as much financial assistance as possible to help pay for the plans on the exchange.


7. You forgot to mention that cancer patients, organ transplants, and diabetics are now unable to afford life-saving medications.

Prescription drug prices are out of control across our nation. OP&F is providing as much support as we can afford but recognize the fact that costs will increase for many retirees. The Board created assistance for members with economic hardship as part of the plan and just increased the low-income subsidy. The members in this situation may receive additional assistance by calling OP&F. The out-of-control costs of prescription drugs was a significant factor in the demise of the self-funded group plan we sponsored for OP&F retirees. We share your concerns in this area and ask for your help as we continue to lobby in Washington for change.


8. You forgot to mention that the Board did NOT once look at options that would’ve protected these retirees and not cost one extra dollar. (We read all of your meeting minutes)

OP&F conducted an extensive Request for Proposal process in May 2017. Prior to the issuance of the RFP, the Board examined and considered alternatives with a health care expert in meetings going back several years, including the cost to keep the self-insured group plan. These meetings were open to the public and representatives from retiree groups attended these meetings regularly. An RFP was conducted in which Ms. Glorioso’s company failed to participate. Perhaps she forgot to mention that.


9. You forgot to mention that there is a Class Action Lawsuit against OP&F due to the irreparable harm that you have caused our Retired Public Safety Veterans.

Correct, there is a lawsuit brought by five members that is making its way through the courts. But as noted above, damages, if any, come from the same statutorily proscribed pot at OP&F.


10. You forgot to mention that you and other Board members forwarded your cell phones to OP&F and shut down your email so that retirees couldn’t reach you.

OP&F Trustees have spent incalculable amounts of time helping members for the last year. Some trustees made “house calls” and personally helped members enroll. Many e-mails were sent to the OP&F and the OP&F responded on their behalf. Sadly, some of the calls and e-mails were simply vile personal attacks and unworthy of a response.


11. You forgot to mention that the investments that you helped choose are charging well over the normal basis points of 1.5%.

You are misinformed about what is normal for an investment portfolio valued at more than $15 billion. OP&F’s investment program has long been recognized as one of the best among its peers nationwide. The investment management fees, while confidential, are in line with other large institutional investors and in many cases are more advantageous for OP&F than others.


12. You forgot to mention that retirees hired before 1986 did not pay into Medicare or Social Security, because the Ohio Police and Fire Retirement System was set up with the promise of “Healthcare Insurance after Retirement.” Because of this, many of Ohio’s Retired Public Safety Veterans are now having to pay thousands of additional dollars annually for the same coverage that others get for free.

The federal laws regarding Social Security and Medicare prior to 1986 you refer to were not passed nationwide because OP&F “promised health care.” OP&F has no control over the Medicare eligibility of retirees, though we have made extensive lobbying efforts to cover these individuals. OP&F has done all it can to accommodate this very small minority of retirees who did not work enough quarters in the private sector to qualify for Medicare. Until 2019, we kept them on our group health care plan and paid all claims from dollar one and 75 percent of the cost of the premium. We gave them more time than anyone else to transition, through June 30, 2019. They are also stipend-eligible to cover the Medicare premium. Finally, we have promoted and continue to lobby for public safety officers be granted access to Medicare at age 55.

David Graham

Communications Director

Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund


Law Officer Editorial Board Closing Comments

Mr. Graham: although we are sure we will be publishing follow-up articles on this article and subject, we thank you and OP&F for addressing the points that you did. Although we are in obvious disagreement on this issue, we wish to be civil, even when we disagree.

The Law Officer Editorial Board looks at the providing of “Healthcare Insurance After Retirement” to those hired under the Pension Plan Booklets that promised it, the same way as any other long term debt. It’s a very simple concept. You can’t take a 40 or 50 year business mortgage out, and then suddenly stop making payments when your product pricing fluctuates . It is, has been, and will remain our stance, that Ohio’s elected representatives need to step up, and take the action necessary to fulfill the decades old promises to their Retired Public Safety Veterans. If the current representatives are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so, they need to be replaced at the ballot box by Ohio’s voters. What say you? Click Here To Send Email to Law Officer

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