“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” JUSTICE LOUIS D. BRANDEIS.
The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Board made a decision to replace the retiree group health insurance plan with a stipend system. Starting last January, retires will buy individual plans online through a company called AON. The change has caused quite the backlash among the Pre-Medicare Group. There has been a litany of complaints - from retirees not receiving enough information to overwhelming premium increases, to a dearth of options available through Aon.
Healthcare is an issue that invokes plenty of passion and Ohio Police and Fire Retirees are no exception. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to this difficult situation. The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund’s most recent stats show they are approximately 72% funded. This is not bad as far as pension funds go but, like all funds, the OP-F is heavily reliant upon investment income and one bad year can change the picture in a heart-beat.
In 2012, all of Ohio’s five public pensions went through extensive pension reform in order to improve their funding status. OP-F increased member contributions, increased retirement age, changed average annual salary calculations, delayed COLA payments and made other benefit reductions. The Board of Trustees also shifted contributions from the Healthcare Stabilization Fund over to help fund pensions.
Since 1974 OP-F has provided some type of healthcare to retirees. The pension benefits are mandated by state law but there is no statutory requirement for healthcare benefits after retirement. The healthcare benefits are funded through the Health Care Stabilization Fund. In 2012 the allocation rate into the HCSF was 6.75% of salary. Today, it stands at 0.5%. We have a situation where the funding for healthcare benefits has been drastically reduced as healthcare costs continue to increase.
While we do not have a magic bullet for the healthcare problem, we do think there is an easy solution to the communication issue. The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund should start broadcasting or livestreaming the board meetings as soon as possible. The Board of Trustees represent police officers and firefighters from all around the State of Ohio, we also have thousands of retirees and beneficiaries who reside outside of the State. For many members of the pension fund, it is not easy to travel to Columbus in order to attend a board meeting. The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund can improve transparency and trust with the membership by the simple act of posting video of the board and committee meetings each and every month.
The deliberations and decisions made at the board level are often difficult. Posting video or livestreaming the public board meetings will help to better educate the membership and result in a better understanding of important board decisions. It will also improve communication with members and show Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund as a leader and model for other public pension systems.