Being a non-legislative year, Nevada’s Interim Retirement and Benefits Committee met February 5 to Discuss All Things PERS and PEBP Related! RPEN was well represented at the meeting, and here are notes taken by Executive Director Terri Laird.
The recent Interim Retirement and Benefits Committee meeting opened with public comment at 1:30 p.m. February 5. Four comments came from representatives in the south with the Nevada State Education Association-Retiree Program, including Tom Wellman. Wellman is also an RPEN member, and testified about his concerns with rising insurance and prescription drug costs for seniors on fixed incomes. He cited special concern for a group of educators who started their careers between the years of 1978-1986 when the state didn’t pay Medicare taxes for employees during those years. He said as a result, they don’t qualify for Medicare and asked the committee to consider legislation at the 2021 legislative session to assist this group. RPEN’s Legislative Advocate Marlene Lockard also testified during public comment calling into question the recent turnover on the Public Employees’ Benefits Program (PEBP) Board and Executive Staff. She said PEBP needs stabilization and experts in insurance to lead the agency. She also again addressed the issue of excess reserves experienced by PEBP since 2011, when the Medicare retirees were moved off of PEBP and into a Medicare Exchange. She has testified many times at PEBP Board meetings through the years about this issue. Another concern Marlene brought up involves those actives hired by the state since the legislature opted out of retiree health care several years ago as a cost cutting measure. She said she hopes this issue can be addressed at the next legislative session. Other public comment came from Kent Ervin who represents the Nevada Faculty Alliance (and who is also an RPEN member) as well as Priscilla Maloney from AFSCME Retirees. Both cited the same issues addressed by Marlene.
The IRBC is chaired by Senator Joyce Woodhouse (another RPEN member) and co-chaired by Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton. Other members include Senators Ben Kieckhefer, and Marilyn Dondero Loop (also an RPEN member) and Assembly Representatives Jim Wheeler and Brittney Miller. This committee meets in non-legislative years to discuss PEBP and the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS).
PERS Executive Officer Tina Leiss opened an hour long discussion about PERS. The committee approved of a 3-percent increase for its’ executive staff and heard about the status of PERS. As of February 5, the fund stood at $47.5 billion, and ended the last fiscal year at $44.1 billion. Leiss and PERS Fiscal Officer Steve Edmundson said the current report was encouraging but not indicative of how the current fiscal year may end June 30. The committee also heard a status report on an expensive new pension administration system. Leiss said they are in the middle of vendor selection and should complete that process at their February 20 board meeting.
The PEBP discussion also lasted about an hour. Laura Rich is the current Interim Executive Officer of PEBP since Damon Haycock left the position as of January 1. Rich spent a lot of time explaining the agency’s program utilization and discussed the agency’s new EPO (Exclusive Provider Option) saying it performed better than expected. There wasn’t a lot of discussion about excess reserves because Rich told the committee PEBP’s high cost claimants represents 32-percent of the plan’s spending. She also said 40-percent of the participants on the EPO have chronic conditions, and combining that with an increase in high cost claimants PEBP could use much of the excess reserves in coming months. She said they should know in April or May if any reserves will be left for any restoration of benefits lost since 2011.
There weren’t a lot of questions, or concerns, raised during the PERS or PEBP presentations. The IRBC usually meets twice in non-legislative years, though another meeting was not scheduled at this gathering.