This page details the pieces of legislation currently being focused on by the government relations team.
OPERS supports provisions in HB 520
Thank you to Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Representative Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) for their collaboration on House Bill 520, which includes a number of provisions sought by OPERS to improve the retirement system for our members. The bill also contains provisions impacting Ohio’s other public retirement systems.
For OPERS, the bill includes changes to simplify survivor benefit eligibility as well as reduce the wait time for refunds. Below is a list of the key provisions in HB 520 that are supported by OPERS:
- Provides the payment of survivor benefits until age 22 to the qualified child of a PERS member who dies prior to retirement regardless of whether the child is attending an institution of learning or training.
- Resumes survivor benefits of certain qualified children under age 22 whose benefits were terminated because they were not attending an institution of learning or training.
- Specifies that, in the case of a PERS member who is also a member of STRS or SERS, PERS will honor the last beneficiary designation among three systems if the beneficiary is eligible for a combined survivor benefit from any of the systems.
Refund of contributions
- Reduces to two months (from three months) the period of time that must elapse without a return to public employment before a PERS member or contributor may apply for a refund of contributions.
The bill also includes a number of other changes that are technical in nature and that modify provisions of the most-recent legislative changes in Senate Bill 42 (130th G.A.). Some of the changes ensure consistency between the law, our administrative rules, and current business practices.
The changes included in HB 520 are common sense improvements for OPERS’ members and their retirement system. We urge the Ohio General Assembly to favorably pass this helpful legislation.
OPERS supports the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, Sponsored by Congressman Kevin Brady
HR 711 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2015. This bill would reform the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of Social Security. Due to the creation of OPERS prior to Social Security, the vast majority of Ohio's public employees do not contribute to Social Security while working in government positions. They may have worked in previous employment that is covered by Social Security and as a result, many of them will be subject to the WEP upon retirement. In many cases, we have received feedback that they did not realize the extent to which their Social Security benefits would be reduced by the WEP. OPERS supports HR 711 and will actively advocate for its passage. To date, four Ohio Congressional representatives have signed on as co-sponsors.
- Read: OPERS Letter to Representative Brady
- Read: OPERS Letter to Ohio Delegation
- Read: Ad Hoc Group Letter - HR 711
OPERS Testifies to US House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to promote access and affordability to prescription drugs while spurring innovation
On December 2, 2015, OPERS’ Manager of Pharmacy Benefits and Policy, Brian Lehman, testified before the U.S. House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee regarding the affordability of prescription drugs. Mr. Lehman described OPERS’ efforts to manage its prescription drug cost and ensure the sustainability of the OPERS Health Care Program.
Mr. Lehman also urged the Committee to:
- Support the development of a biosimilar and interchangeable biosimilar marketplace
- Consider how the U.S. can change from the current pay-per-pill model of buying prescription drugs to a model that is value- or outcomes-based
- Protect OPERS’ ability to use plan design and utilization management tools to manage its health care costs
OPERS Applauds Delay of Excise Tax on High Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage, Continues to Advocate for Full Repeal
We want to thank the members of our Ohio Congressional delegation for their support of the changes to the excise tax. With their assistance, we were able to achieve a two- year delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax.
OPERS has been advocating in Washington for a full repeal of the excise tax, or “Cadillac tax.” In recent months, we asked our members to show support for its repeal by contacting federal legislators, House and Senate leadership and the White House to encourage them to repeal the Cadillac tax.
The excise tax was scheduled to take effect in January 2018; however, an amendment passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (HR 2029), has delayed the enactment of the excise tax until 2020. While a delay is good news, OPERS staff will continue their advocacy efforts for a full repeal of the excise tax or, alternatively, an exemption for public retirement systems from the tax.
OPERS joins with other organizations across the country in opposing the excise tax because it places quality health care at risk for our 226,000 participants. Despite steps taken to control costs through plan design and cost-sharing, providing OPERS’ retirees with continued access to quality health care coverage has become more difficult. Without the changes enacted in HR 2029 and because of the rising cost of health care, OPERS would have been subject to an estimated $25 million in taxes the first year if we retained the same level of coverage we have now for retirees under 65. Even with the two-year delay and potential increases to the excise tax thresholds, OPERS retiree health care plans may still exceed the 2020 thresholds.
We are grateful to the members of the Ohio Congressional delegation who supported the delay. We look forward to continuing to work together in the future on a permanent solution.
- Learn more: Excise Tax One-Pager
OPERS Opposes Mandatory Social Security Coverage for Ohio’s Public Employees
While many challenges to OPERS exist at the federal government level, one common priority remains a constant. There are individuals and organizations that question the solvency of public pensions that are separate from the Social Security program. They often suggest that moving public employees into the Social Security system is a good idea. OPERS has long opposed this idea and continues to communicate with state and federal legislators why this should not occur. Ohio’s retirement systems have developed a national reputation for providing retirement security to our members and providing billions of dollars to help Ohio’s economy. Our systems are adequately funded, efficiently run, and prudently managed. In fact, two of the systems predate Social Security. In 2015, OPERS will have provided benefits to its members for 80 years.
Ohio’s Congressional delegation has historically maintained strong support for Ohio’s public retirement systems in their opposition to mandatory Social Security legislation. In an effort to strengthen that resolve, OPERS takes every opportunity to communicate with them. In November of 2013, the Ohio General Assembly unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 19, which urges Congress to oppose any legislation that requires Social Security coverage for members of any of Ohio’s state retirement systems. We appreciate the Legislature’s bipartisan support, led by HCR 19’s co-sponsors, Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Dan Ramos (D-Lorain).