RPEC Lobbies Washington, D.C.
In odd years, the AFSCME Retirees Council holds its annual conference in Washington, D.C., and lobbies Congress as part of the program. The annual conference was held during the last week of September. This year’s delegation from RPEC to the AFSCME Retirees Council meeting consisted of President Clair Olivers, Secretary and Legislative Committee Chair Nancy Heley, and Associate Director Derek VanSpoor.
As we had an open day after our travel before the conference convened, we pre-scheduled several meetings at the offices of several members of our Congressional delegation to address Washington-specific issues. We met with healthcare staff from Rep. Schrier, Rep. Strickland, Rep. Newhouse, and Sen. Cantwell and discussed seeking an extension to federal prescription drug subsidies that are afforded to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and ask that they include government self-insured coordination of benefits plans. In Washington State, that plan is the Uniform Medical Plan Classic Medicare, available through the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). An extension of these subsidies would help to lower premium costs as prescription drug costs are the driving factor for the higher premiums.
We also took an opportunity to share a resolution formed by a coalition of labor groups including RPEC and adopted at the WSLC convention last month that seeks to level the playing field for Medicare by including hearing, vision, and dental as is available in MA plans, eliminating the excessive administrative costs and profits in the Medicare Advantage and ACO-REACH programs, and recouping funds for the Medicare Trust Fund from fraud and abuse by Medicare Advantage plans and ACO-REACH contractors.
Two days later, we carried the priorities of the AFSCME Retirees Council to meetings on the hill. Meeting with Rep. Larsen, and staff from Rep. Strickland, Rep. Kilmer, Sen. Cantwell, and Sen. Murray’s offices, we addressed concerns over the potential government shutdown and how it would affect Washington State residents and retirees, we discussed the repeal of the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and government pension offset (GPO) in the Social Security Fairness Act, and also thanked those who voted for the Inflation Reduction Act, which caps insulin at $35/mo and allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with the drug manufacturers.
RPEC continues to meet with other members of our Congressional delegation virtually to pursue conversations regarding federal prescription drug subsidies. We will continue to update you on news of these meetings and progress on this issue.