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Executive Director’s Monthly Letter – December 2022

Dear RPEC Leaders:

Hasn’t 2022 been an exciting year for RPEC?  This issue of the Monthly Letter includes a short round-up of our shared successes and includes a look forward to the new legislative session and our collective work with legislators on January 30, RPEC’s 2023 Legislative Day.

As we approach 2023, we extend our sincerest wishes for a peaceful and safe holiday season.  We look forward to seeing you in January and working alongside you to advance RPEC’s legislative and government affairs priorities.

Top-line successes

Here’s a quick overview of some of our shared successes from 2022:

  • Secured a one-time 3% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Plan 1 retirees through statewide advocacy.
  • Successfully lobbied for legislation that increases prescription drug price affordability and caps the cost of insulin.
  • Stopped the passage of a resolution, sponsored by Health Care Authority staff, that would have eliminated the Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare for 53,000 retirees in the state.
  • Secured a statewide day of recognition and observance for women veterans.
  • Passed two Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) resolutions – one tied to securing a permanent Plan 1 COLA and the other focused on protecting UMP Classic Medicare.
  • Built and lead the Public Employees’ Benefits Board (PEBB) Medicare Coalition to work with HCA staff to broaden retiree voices in policy decision-making.
  • Negotiated an agreement with the HCA, through the PEBB Medicare Coalition, stating that the UMP Classic Medicare Plan is not closing. (The agreement is being signed this month and will be shared in the January Monthly Letter).
  • Coordinated a successful in-person RPEC Convention – the first in four years.
  • Successfully mobilized to influence legislation to be sponsored by the Select Committee on Pension Policy (SCPP) in the 2023 legislative session.
  • Raised a record number of individual donations for RPEC’s Political Action Committee (PAC).
  • Launched monthly Leadership Calls for RPEC leaders and all those interested in serving in leadership capacities in the future.
  • Coordinated successful Executive Board training for the newly elected Executive Board.
  • Supported the revitalization of Chapter 30, which is now under new leadership.
  • Established two new workgroups – the Policy Review and Health Care Workgroup. These workgroups, along with the Pension Policy Workgroup, work to support RPEC’s priorities.
  • Expanded the office team with now six full-time staff supporting members and advocacy.
  • Achieved a 20-year membership high.

Political Action Committee Recap

RPEC played a major role in the 2022 election cycle, spending over $70,000 to support pro-retiree candidates. Eighty-seven of the 120 candidates who were elected to the state legislature were endorsed by RPEC. Electing leaders who believe in protecting pensions and benefits is a key component of our advocacy. Making campaign contributions also helps us build relationships with elected officials.

Our success would not be possible without the 621 RPEC members who automatically contribute to the RPEC Political Action Committee every month. If you are interested in contributing an amount of your choosing to the PAC, please call (360) 352-8262 ext. 103.

RPEC Chapters also deserve recognition for the role they have played in our political action campaign.  Since August 2020, RPEC chapters have directly spent $24,420 on campaign contributions. Chapter 2 spent $5,250, Chapter 3 spent $1,000, Chapter 7 spent $4,850, Chapter 8 spent $5,220, Chapter 13 spent $5,600, Chapter 18 spent $700, Chapter 22 spent $300, Chapter 23 spent $300, and Chapter 46 spent $1,200.

Additionally, since August 2020, chapters have given $14,780 to the RPEC PAC to be spent at the PAC’s discretion. Chapter 2 gave $600, Chapter 3 gave $50, Chapter 6 gave $2,000, Chapter 7 gave $200, Chapter 13 gave $7,400, Chapter 25 gave $250, Chapter 27 gave $1,200, Chapter 35 gave $3,000, and Chapter 40 gave $130.

We are excited to build upon our success as we prepare to work with new legislators, who we helped elect, and look ahead to the 2024 election cycle.

Legislative Day, January 30 — Deadline to Register – January 11

Please plan to join us for our in-person Legislative Day on January 30th from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The event, held annually in concert with Washington Education Association – Retired, will begin with legislative advocacy training, followed by lunch, afternoon legislator meetings, and a reception with legislators from 6-8 p.m.

Visit the Council Website at www.rpecwa.org for more details and to register today.  Registration closes on January 11th.

Great news!  The Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) Medicare Coalition to sign agreement with Health Care Authority (HCA)

This month, the PEBB Medicare Coalition, formed and headed by RPEC, is poised to sign an agreement with the HCA director, affirming that the Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare is not closing.  The agreement evolved through months of meetings with HCA leaders and Coalition partners. Once the signed agreement has been received by the Council Office, it will be shared with all RPEC leaders and included in the January Executive Director Monthly Letter.

Select Committee on Pension Policy (SCPP) to sponsor bill to accomplish RPEC’s goals

This month, the SCPP will be filing a bill that carries language crafted by RPEC. Thanks to the efforts of SCPP Member Bev Hermanson (who is also our PAC chair) and President Clair Olivers, the legislation says, “the Select Committee on Pension Policy will study and recommend an ongoing cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries of the public employees’ retirement system plan 1 and the teachers’ retirement system plan 1.”  The bill also includes another 3% one-time COLA not to exceed $110 per month.  In the new legislative session, we will work together to ensure the bill retains both a legislative focus on a permanent COLA, as well as ad hoc COLA relief from staggering inflation.

Regence BlueShield contracts under negotiation – you could be impacted

On November 28, the Council Office received notice from the Health Care Authority that RPEC members could be impacted by stalled negotiations between Regence BlueShield and various contracted medical providers across the state, including the Everett Clinic and The Polyclinic.

As of the date of this Monthly Letter, negotiations were still underway.

The contract negotiations primarily impact Regence BlueCross beneficiaries in the following counties:

  • Chelan (The Polyclinic only)
  • King
  • Pierce
  • Snohomish
  • Whatcom

For up-to-date news on negotiations, visit:  https://www.hca.wa.gov/about-hca/news/announcements.  Search for an announcement about the status of the Regence BlueShield negotiations.

These announcements also include alternative medical facilities and physician groups in the impacted areas that have active contracts with Regence BlueShield.

Free annual RPEC membership

Members around the state are beginning to recruit former co-workers and friends to join RPEC through the Recruit 2 member-to-member campaign. For every two new members you recruit, you will receive a check for $84! To get credit, your name must appear in the “Recruited by” field on the new members’ membership applications. Associate members do not count until they become full dues-paying members. Checks will only be issued to current members in good standing. If you recruit just two new members, your annual membership in RPEC will be free for a year!

Office of the State Actuary revamps website

The Office of the State Actuary (OSA) has revamped the education website page.  The new page includes two new sections – Washington State Pension Plans and Work Produced by OSA.  The re-engineered webpage has been accomplished to better serve the public in finding information about pensions.  OSA also anticipates offering in-depth training about how pensions are funded.  Check out the new education page at: https://leg.wa.gov/osa/education/Pages/default.aspx.

If you are interested in RPEC’s focus on pension security, consider attending meetings of the Pension Policy Workgroup in the new year.  The workgroup meetings are open to all members and attending one of these meetings is a great way to learn about RPEC’s work in this area on behalf of Plans 1, 2 and 3 retirees.  The workgroup meeting schedule will be available in the new year.

Federal relations efforts to increase in 2023

RPEC’s legislative priorities include a focus on federal legislative priorities.  RPEC will continue to be vigilant in fighting to safeguard Social Security and Medicare. In the short term, we will be focusing on the following priorities:

  • Supporting legislation to restore reimbursement rates for physicians who serve Medicare patients.
  • Supporting legislation to raise the debt ceiling to ensure Social Security and Medicare are fully funded.
  • Opposing legislation to increase the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare.
  • Expanding federal subsidies for health care plans to include state self-insured plans like UMP Classic Medicare. (These subsidies are only currently available to Medicare Advantage Plans).

If health care interests you at a state and/or federal level, consider attending meetings of the newly formed Health Care Workgroup.  The workgroup will be setting its meeting schedule soon.  Look for more information on the RPEC website in the new year.

Looking for a new volunteer opportunity?  SHIBA is recruiting volunteer advisors

Many years ago, RPEC was instrumental in working with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) to create the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA).  Volunteer advisors, many of whom are retired from state and local government agencies and school districts like RPEC members, are trained by OIC staff to help to answer questions about Medicare and retiree health insurance.  SHIBA volunteer advisors are caring and unbiased and receive no commissions or other payments; they volunteer because they want to help other retirees.

To learn more about becoming a volunteer advisor or to get your questions answered about Medicare and retiree health insurance, visit https://www.insurance.wa.gov/about-shiba-services.

Important Dates

Visit the RPEC website at www.rpecwa.org for the full calendar:

Dec. 9: Legislative Committee
Dec. 16: Monthly Leadership Call
Dec. 23-Jan. 2: Council Office closed in observance of December holidays
Jan. 3: Council Office resumes regular hours
Jan. 9:  First day of the legislative session
Jan 11:  Deadline to register for Legislative Day (register online)
Jan. 13:  Legislative Update Call (these are held weekly beginning, Jan. 13)
Jan. 16:  Council Office closed in observance of MLK Day
Jan. 20:  Legislative Update Call
Jan. 27:  Legislative Update Call
Jan. 30: Legislative Day (in-person in Olympia)

Have a beautiful holiday season.  See you in 2023!

Best,
Laurie

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