Appeals Court Dismisses Retiree Health Coverage Suit against Ohio's SERS

December 29, 2004 ( - The Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court's dismissal of a suit against Ohio's School Employees Retirement System (SERS) over changes in retiree health benefits.

>The dismissed lawsuit was filed by the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE)  in 2003, and alleged that SERS did not have authority to change retiree health care programs. In January 2004, SERS altered premium and co-payment changes in order to extend the life of the health-care fund, according to a press release. The union then sued SERS in a Court of Common Pleas, asserting that the fund did not have a right to take such action.

The suit alleged that the actions taken by the pension board were illegal based on what it says were “clear and unambiguous promises” SERS made to its members that premium amounts for health-care coverage would not change. OAPSE Executive Director Joseph Rugola said that these promises led many retirees to make serious personal, family, financial and quality of life decisions (See Ohio Non-Teaching Union Sues Retirement System Over Health-Care Increase ).

>The court ruled unanimously that neither health care nor access to health care was a vested right. This will effectively allow SERS to modify the health fund to keep it viable, officials said. SERS asserted in the news release that due to rising health care costs, the health-care fund would have been depleted by 2006.