OPERS History & Background
With defined benefit and health care investment assets of $99.6 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017, OPERS is the largest state pension fund in Ohio, the 12th-largest public retirement system and 15th-largest retirement system in the U.S.
One out of every 12 Ohioans relies on OPERS for retirement, disability and survivor benefits. In more than 80 years, OPERS has always made its benefit payments.
OPERS members do not pay into Social Security. Instead, OPERS replaces Social Security for our members.
OPERS serves more than 1 million members:
- 346,959 are active members, currently working in public employment and contributing to their retirement
- 535,941 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
Nearly 3,680 public employers in Ohio are part of the OPERS system.
How OPERS Works
OPERS is governed by an unpaid governing board of 11 members responsible for the strategic direction and oversight of the System. Board members are elected by the employee groups they represent or are appointed by elected officials.
While board members are elected/appointed by various constituencies, once a board member takes office, it is their fiduciary responsibility to make decisions in the best interests of the system representing all membership, not just the group from which they were elected/appointed.
The Ohio General Assembly oversees the retirement systems through the Ohio Retirement Study Council
OPERS receives money from three main sources:
- Employee contributions
- Employer contributions
- Return on investments
Historically 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.
Nearly 90 percent of OPERS retirees live in Ohio, spending the vast majority of retirement dollars on goods and services in the state. In addition, for every $1 of taxpayer contribution to OPERS, investments and employee contributions plus other sources of revenue return $3.49 into the Ohio economy.
- 1935 – OPERS is established as the State Employees Retirement System to provide retirement benefits to Ohio public employees. OPERS predates Social Security.
- 1938 – OPERS' name changed to the Public Employees Retirement System as it expands to include counties, municipalities, health departments and parks.
- 1941 – Elected officials were given the option to participate in OPERS.
- 1950 – Survivor benefits and disability benefits were added.
- 1970 – The first cost-of-living adjustment was issued to members.
- 1974 – Although not mandated, OPERS began offering health care coverage for retirees
- 1975 – OPERS added a Law Enforcement Division.
- 1994 – OPERS introduced a toll-free help number for benefit recipients.
- 1997 – OPERS launched its website, opers.org.
- 2003 – OPERS began offering a defined contribution plan (Member-Directed Plan) as well as a hybrid plan (Combined Plan).
- 2003 – OPERS' name changed to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.
- 2004 – The OPERS Board of Trustees approved the Health Care Preservation Plan to ensure health care coverage for future retirees.
- 2009 – The OPERS Board of Trustees adopted plan design changes to strengthen the fund and continue providing access to health care coverage.
- 2012 – The Ohio General Assembly passed pension redesign legislation that substantially adjusted retirement benefits for OPERS members and helped maintain the fund's financial strength.
- 2013 – The new plan design became effective Jan. 7, 2013.
- 2013 – New health care rules were put into place, including the establishment of an exchange-based approach to health care for Medicare-age members.
- 2016 – The OPERS Medicare Connector administered by OneExchange began operations.
OPERS’ assets are comprised of two funds (12/31/16 data):
- Pension: $78.7 billion
- Health care: $11.9 billion
- Total: $90.6 billion
- Pension: 80 percent funded to meet future liabilities with an amortization period of 19 years. OPERS remains in compliance with the 30-year timeframe required for paying off pension liabilities as specified in Ohio law.