A Brief History of OPERS
Nearly 3,700 public employers in Ohio are part of the OPERS system. While most know OPERS as the retirement system for state employees, did you also know…
- Collectively, county governments employ the largest number of OPERS-covered public employees.
- Townships represent the largest type of employer unit.
- The Ohio State University is the single largest OPERS-covered public employer.
Today OPERS serves more than 1 million members:
- 346,959 are active members, currently working in public employment and contributing to their retirement
- 537,309 are inactive members who maintain retirement accounts from past public employment
- 208,361 are retirees and beneficiaries receiving monthly pension and/or health care coverage
Historically about two-thirds of OPERS’ revenue, from which benefits are paid, is derived from investment returns. The remaining one-third of the revenue comes from employee and employer contributions made as a percentage of payroll, with limits established in the Ohio Revised Code.
Nearly 90 percent of OPERS retirees live in Ohio, spending the vast majority of retirement dollars on goods and services in the state. Every year OPERS distributes more than $6.8 billion in pension payments and health care coverage to OPERS retirees and their beneficiaries.
One out of every 12 Ohioans relies on OPERS for retirement, disability and/or survivor benefits. For more than 80 years, OPERS has always made its benefit payments.
The following is a brief historical snapshot of OPERS and a look at our current membership makeup.
- OPERS was established in 1935, pre-dating Social Security, to make available a secure means to provide retirement for Ohio public employees. The system was originally named the Public Employees Retirement System and added “Ohio” in 2003 to become OPERS.
- In 1938, OPERS expanded to include county, municipalities, health department and park and conservancy district employees.
- In 1941, membership was made optional for elected officials.
- In 1951, survivor benefits were added.
- Although not mandated, OPERS began offering health care coverage in the 1960s. In 1974, OPERS began pre-funding health care and began paying premiums for retirees.
- In 1975, a Law Enforcement Division was added.
- In 2002, OPERS announced the availability, beginning in January 2003, of Member-Directed and Combined plans in addition to its Traditional Pension Plan. The new plans allow members more direct involvement in their investments.
- In 2004, the OPERS Board of Trustees approved the Health Care Preservation Plan to strengthen the Fund so we could continue to offer access to health care coverage for future retirees.
- In 2010, the Pew Center on the States rated Ohio as a “solid performer,” their highest ranking.
- In 2012, upon the recommendation of the OPERS Board, the Ohio Legislature unanimously passed pension legislation that will help OPERS maintain the fund’s financial strength.
- Also in 2012, after years of study and discussion, OPERS implemented changes that strengthened the long term solvency of the health care fund, provided more choice and allowed the continuation of meaningful coverage for our retirees.