• 50°

Public employee retirement system is broken

For years, administrators of the five programs that provide retirement benefits for public employees in Ohio have been begging state legislators to do something about unfunded liabilities. Meanwhile, the debt continues to grow.

At last count, the five pension systems had a combined unfunded liability of about $66 billion. Only about two-thirds of the benefits they were pledged to provide were covered financially. …

Some progress has been achieved in dealing with the liabilities. But legislators need to give the five retirement boards more flexibility to keep the programs solvent.

That may mean requiring public employees to pay more of the cost of funding pensions and covering retirees’ health care costs. It also may require new limits on benefits such as health insurance. …

But changes have to be made, or the programs at some point will be insolvent — or will have to turn to Buckeye State taxpayers for massive bailouts.

Some legislators have expressed reluctance to tackle the issue this summer. That is because many of them are up for re-election this fall, of course. But the groundwork for action needs to be laid now — and steps to clear up the mess should begin no later than November.

The Marietta Times


New Medicaid approach to help recipients, taxpayers

A new team approach to mental and physical health care for Ohio’s Medicaid patients is both smart medicine and smart business.

Under the “health home” program, the low-income residents in the Medicaid program will have primary-care physicians who work with other doctors, social workers and pharmacists to attend to needs that otherwise might not be recognized and met until they reach the emergency stage.

State officials expect that the coordinated approach will mean fewer ER visits and shorter or fewer hospital stays, among other benefits.

The program will begin in October in Adams, Butler, Lawrence, Lucas and Scioto counties. Stark and the other 82 counties will be brought on board by next July.

In the coming months, the Kasich administration has difficult decisions to make about the future of the state’s Medicaid program, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the federal health care law.

The Affordable Care Act gives each state the option to expand its Medicaid benefits, which are funded jointly by the federal and state governments. For many years, Medicaid has been the fastest growing segment of state spending in Ohio.

In the meantime, though, there’s no reason to delay implementing a program that should benefit both Medicaid recipients and taxpayers.

The (Canton) Repository