Knowledge Base

The Knowledge Base is a continuing effort of GRS’ Research Group and consultants. We encourage you to explore our articles and news postings. GRS also offers Education and Training programs to help assure you’re making the right decisions for your benefit programs.

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FOCUS ON THE FUNDAMENTALS

Pension & Opeb Basics

This is the perfect first seminar for those who may be new to defined benefit programs. It will give the attendee a good foundation for future sessions. Attendees can opt to have GRS cover both pension and OPEB or just one topic area. During this presentation we will define and explain DB plan structures used in the public sector; review how DB structures differ from DC structures; provide a high level review of pension and OPEB accounting standards; review commonly used actuarial and benefit design terms, discuss types of pension and OPEB funding vehicles, and described various types of studies (experience, asset/liability, and actuarial audits) used in defined benefit work.

Intermediate Pension Actuarial Concepts

This presentation covers actuarial and funding concepts associated with defined benefit pension plans. This presentation will help the attendee understand the pension valuation report by explaining actuarial mathematics related to the basic funding equation, contribution rate, concept of present value, the funded ratio, and actuarial assumptions. The presentation will include examples of how plans are valued and funded using these concepts.

Intermediate OPEB Actuarial Concepts

This presentation covers actuarial and funding concepts associated with OPEB programs. This presentation will help the attendee understand the OPEB valuation report by explaining actuarial mathematics related to the basic funding equation, contribution rate, concept of present value, the funded ratio, per capita rate development, implicit rate subsidy, and actuarial assumptions. The presentation will include examples of how plans are valued and funded using these concepts.

BEYOND THE FUNDAMENTALS

Actuarial Aspects of Accounting for Public Pension:
GASB No. 67 and No. 68

This presentation covers pension reporting and accounting standards and related actuarial concepts. Key concepts and terms associated with the standards are defined. A discussion of how the standards and reporting requirements apply to employers and plan will also be covered. An explanation of the actuarial valuation components needed for financial reporting is also provided. The presentation includes sample calculations for various financial reporting elements.

GASB 68: Taking it to the Next Level

GASB Statement 68, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions, establishes new standards for governmental employers (and other entities) that contribute to state and local pension plans. GASB 68 significantly changes pension accounting and financial reporting for state and local governments by separating pension accounting from pension funding. In addition to reporting pension liabilities and expense in their basic financial statements, governmental employers must also make pension disclosures in the notes to their financial statements and in required supplementary information (RSI).

This presentation will provide specifics regarding how statewide cost-sharing and agent multiple-employer systems are effectively addressing the significant communication and reporting issues inherent in the new standards and to assist their participating employers with timely and fully compliant implementation of GASB 68. Specific examples will be given regarding effective messaging, reporting (both electronic and hard copy), and auditing assistance not only to the GASB end users but also to government executive and legislative officials and system participants, as well.

Actuarial Governance:
Are you where you need to be?

Having transparent and well-vetted retirement plan governance has become more important than ever in satisfying fiduciary obligations. With the recent accounting changes, many PERS have developed written funding policies as a piece of actuarial governance. Actuarial governance is an important component of PERS governance and risk management; but rather than consigning funding policy to an actuarial silo, all governance can be coordinated with a risk-management framework. For example, over the years, public employee retirement systems (PERS) have spent a significant amount of time and resources establishing governance and risk management practices that address legal, investment, operational, and ethical issues. Good governance requires coordination of all components. Attendees will learn how to combine actuarial policies into their existing frameworks to address funding and benefit design decisions and strengthen and enhance overall plan governance.

Role of Actuarial Audits in Due Diligence

Actuarial audits serve an important role in ensuring sound funding for public pension plans. The presentation begins with a review of the purpose, timing and need for actuarial audits and their role in due diligence. The remainder of the presentation covers the types of actuarial audits available and a description of the findings you can expect from each.

EMERGING AND EVOLVING TRENDS

Innovative Pension Benefit Designs

In recent years, risk sharing has become a core component of pension benefit design. Nearly every government, either formally or informally, has asked the following questions:

• What is the right balance of risk between employee and employer?
• How can retirement systems rebalance the risk and still meet their benefit adequacy goals?

In response to these questions, numerous benefit designs have emerged. These include variable benefit, hybrids, and cash balance plans. During this session, the speaker will explain how each of these plans work, along with a discussion of the risk sharing elements each design offers.

Impending High Value Excise Tax

While employers and health care plan sponsors are working diligently to cut health care costs, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) 40% excise tax on high-value health care plans still looms large. Various studies indicate that nearly 50% of large employers could begin to trigger the excise tax by 2018 with some experts saying that most employers will inevitably be subject to the tax; the Congressional Budget Office projects the tax will generate approximately $80 billion in its first five years. During this session, the presenter will explain how the tax applies to employers and insurers, which types of plans are likely to hit the threshold, and some potential solutions to proactively address the tax and its implications.

Exchange Solutions

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) ushered in an era of exchange-based health care insurance purchasing. The goal of the ACA based public exchanges was to increase access to affordable health insurance coverage through the use of subsidies. Private exchanges offered by a variety of organizations are not covered under the ACA and do not offer subsidies. They have evolved alongside the ACA model as an alternative between traditional defined benefit group health care coverage and the individual offerings through public exchanges. These two benefit strategies offer different coverage and cost containment solutions with pros and cons to both employers and plan participants. Navigating which option is the right one depends largely on the covered population in question and an employer’s overall health care benefit goals. During this session, the presenter will discuss the options available in either type of exchange, some of the considerations for and the potential impact on employers and individuals participating in them.

Alternative Group Healthcare Delivery Models

While the ACA has increased the focus on “quality versus cost” in health care, health care delivery models have been evolving for years addressing this specific issue. In recent years, two concepts have been most prevalent through these innovative delivery models; one is coordinated care and the other is performance based solutions. Coordinated care concepts cover delivery models such as accountable care organizations and patient center medical homes, while high performance networks and valued based solutions address provider and health system performance. This session will explain the how these models work, how they can improve financial and health outcomes for your group health plan and its participants, and best practice considerations to implement and sustain continued value when deploying.

Alternative Medicare Solutions

Medicare eligible retirees have access to insurance coverage options beyond the federally available Medicare Parts A and B. These alternatives include Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Part D plans. Medicare Advantage plans, which have been available since the 1970s are private plans, usually HMOs and PPOs. Medicare Part D legislation, which offers federally subsidized prescription drug coverage was enacted in 2003 as part of the Medicare Modernization Act. Currently, nearly one in three Medicare beneficiaries in America is enrolled in one of these plans. During this session, the presenter will describe the primary features of these plans, how they operate, the differences between individual and group MA and PDP markets, and why group health care plans might want to consider using these solutions. In addition, the session will offer best practices to implement and sustain continued value in these group plans as part of your retiree health strategy.

Measuring Pension Risk: It’s not just for the Actuary

The Actuarial Standards Board (ASB) is considering the adoption of an Actuarial Standard of Practice (ASOP) for pension valuations that would provide guidance to actuaries on the measurement of risk associated with pension obligations and actuarially determined contributions. The ASB’s Pension Committee describes risk as “the potential for future deviation of actual results from expectations derived from actuarial assumptions.” As such, the Committee is proposing that actuaries provide an assessment of the significant risks associated with the measures. The proposed ASOP also covers guidance on the methods the actuary should consider for assessing risk.

While the ASOP impacts the work of the actuary, it is important that retirement system trustees and sponsors gain a good understanding of these risks and how they can affect various funding policy decisions. In addition, understanding the role of and need for each risk assessment method is likely to be a subject of discussion and determination between the actuary and client.

During this session, the presenter will explain the significant risks that may affect the plan’s financial condition, which include investment risk, asset/liability mismatch risk, interest rate risk, longevity risk, and other risks that may have a material effect as determined by the actuary. A discussion of the methods to be used to measure the risks and their role in the assessment process will also be covered. These methods include stress tests, scenario tests, sensitivity tests, and stochastic modeling.