Pension Matters

State Employees Retirement Fund
Most Recent Market Value | Michigan Treasury Bureau of Investments

September 2019

Presentation on Change of Retiree Health Care Benefits

Representatives from State Employee Benefits and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provided information about work underway to implement a Medicare Advantage plan for Medicare eligible members on January 1, 2020. SERA members were notified of an overview of the new program to be presented on September 4, 2019. This plan will not include prescription drug, dental or vision coverage. These will stay with their current providers. More information will be sent to all affected state employees and presentations will be given at the chapters. If you get material from BCBS don’t throw it away.

The new program is called Medicare Advantage. It will cover all original Medicare part A & B benefits; the original Medicare rights and protections and the original Medicare covered services. Extra benefits offered under this plan are “Silver Sneakers”, care management services and online visits (Telehealth). New cards will be coming in the mail as much more information will be coming directly to you as the new program is implemented. MORE INFORMATION WILL BE COMING OUT DIRECLY TO YOU THROUGH INFORMATIONAL MEETINGS THAT WILL BE HELD THROUGHOUT THE STATE FOR ALL Medicare-eligible retirees to explain the Medicare Advantage Plan.

Defined Benefit Plans Doing Well

According to an article in Pensions and Investments, “participants in defined contribution plans are staying the course in saving for retirement, according to the Investment Company Institute's latest analysis of participant contribution and withdrawal activity.

In the first quarter, 0.9% of plan participants stopped contributing to their plans, down from 1.1% in the same quarter the previous year.

Participants also showed little interest in changing their asset allocations, “with 4.2% changing the allocation of their balances and 2.9% changing the allocation of their contributions, down from 5.1% and 3.5%, respectively, in the year-ago quarter.”

Michigan Achieving a Better Life Experience Investment Savings Account

LANSING, Mich. – Individuals who have a “Michigan Achieving a Better Life Experience Investment” savings account can use those funds to help with health, independence and quality-of-life expenses, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Known as MiABLE for short, the funds saved in 529(A) accounts can be used to off-set the costs associated with a disability. This may include paying for expenses related to education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services or other eligible expenses. (Michigan Department of Treasury)

Article in the Detroit News

“Unfunded liabilities, including pensions, remain one of the biggest drags on communities in Michigan. While local governments must follow through on constitutionally protected pension promises, they need to ensure they're creating a more sustainable financial path. Michigan’s constitution is clear. Governments have a contractual obligation to set aside funding for promised pension benefits, and to do so in the same year their obligations are incurred. If that is not managed, then funding last year’s pension obligations is supposed to be the first line item on next year's budget.

All struggling cities should show they have a plan for paying off outstanding debt, while still maintaining basic government services.”

Nuisance Calls

Nomorobo is available for landline users with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone services, which are generally offered by internet and cable service providers. Check the Nomorobo website to see if your provider supports this service. The service is currently free for landline users.

Research on Shift from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution

A new series of case studies finds that states that shifted new employees from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution or cash balance plans experienced increased costs for taxpayers, without major improvements in funding. The research also indicates that the move away from pensions cuts employees’ retirement security and that employers may face increasing challenges hiring and retaining staff to deliver public services.

The research, Enduring Challenges: Examining the Experiences of States that Closed Pension Plans, provides case studies in four states that closed their pension plans in favor of alternative plan designs: AlaskaKentuckyMichigan and West Virginia. The full report can be found at

State of Michigan Investment Board Meeting June 6, 2019

“March 2019 Performance Great peer comparison. MPSERS Plan (03/31/19) 1-Year 3-Years 5-Years 7-Years 10-Years Annualized Returns 6.1% 10.3% 8.3% 9.6% 11.0% Policy Returns 4.2% 9.4% 7.8% 9.4% 11.6% Peer Median Returns* 4.3% 8.9% 6.7% 8.0% 10.0% *State Street Universe greater than $10 billion.

Over the past one, three, five, seven, and ten years, the returns are much higher than peer median returns. Compared to the State Street Universe of public pension plans greater than $10 billion, the returns are mostly within the top ‘grouping’ of returns. Also, the plans’ returns were among the least risky, as measured by standard deviation.”

Editor’s note: June Morse may be contacted at or 517-886-9323.

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