State Legislative Update
We expect the Senate budget to be released on Monday (or possibly Tuesday) of next week, with a hearing that same day. We expect the House to release its budget the following week with a hearing shortly thereafter. We anticipate a very bare bones budget coming from the Senate, partly as a bargaining posture with the House. We do not anticipate that either budget will contain the Plan 1 COLA outlined in HB 1484. The PEBB Medicare benefit restoration is unlikely to be in either budget, though we will continue to advocate for inclusion of these two priorities in the final budget deal which is still many weeks out.
We will be having RPEC members testifying at upcoming Senate and House budget hearings to emphasize the need to include a PEBB Medicare subsidy restoration from $150 to $182.50 and a Plan 1 COLA in the budget.
Here is a link to the list of bills currently of focus to RPEC and their status: http://www.rpecwa.org/bill-summary-3-17-2017/
President Trump Budget Proposal
On Thursday, President Trump released his “first budget blueprint”. We are keeping an eye on this and will mobilize our membership as necessary as it proceeds.
Of note to seniors is the funding of critical aid programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Development Block Grant, which in part funds Meals on Wheels. Trump’s budget would eliminate funding for some programs, as well as zero out other federal programs. Both LIHEAP and Meals for Wheels are listed in the link below under “Programs Trump proposes to eliminate or zero out”.
From Trump budget proposal: “Eliminates the discretionary programs within the Office of Community Services, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a savings of $4.2 billion from the 2017 annualized CR level. Compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes. CSBG funds services that are duplicative of other Federal programs, such as emergency food assistance (Meals for Wheels) and employment services, and is also a limited-impact program.”
Stay tuned as we follow Trump’s budget into Congress as we will likely need to make noise to protect vital community services and programs of importance to seniors, including anti-poverty programs funded by the federal government.
Note – Presidential budget proposals are typically only a guide for Congress, since lawmakers control funding.
American Health Care Act (AHCA)
From the Office of the Governor: Under the proposed Republican American Health Act, there will be more uninsured Washingtonians than before the Affordable Care Act was implemented with working families in rural communities and low-income seniors hardest hit, a new state analysis finds. Read more here
From the Alliance for Retired Americans: President Trump, House Republicans in a Health Care War with Older Americans
Republican efforts to ram their plan to replace Obamacare through Congress quickly hit a snag on Monday when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The report found that the plan would reduce the lifespan of the Medicare Trust Fund by three years, from 2028 to 2025; cause 24 million people to lose their insurance; and cut $880 billion from Medicaid. The GOP plan replaces Obamacare subsidies with flat, age-based tax credits that would not take into account the price differences between states or the income levels of the recipients.
CBO found that older Americans would lose the most if the AHCA were to pass. Many of the people losing insurance would be ages 50-64 and not yet eligible for Medicare. They would be priced out of insurance at a higher rate than the rest of the country — leading to higher Medicare costs as people would enter Medicare with unaddressed medical needs.
“The big winners would be corporations and millionaires who would enjoy the windfall of enormous tax cuts,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance.
Despite the CBO estimates, the House Budget Committee approved the American Health Care Act on Thursday, moving the controversial measure to the floor next week.
“The bill represents a concerted effort to cut health care for the most vulnerable to fund an enormous tax cut for people who don’t need it,” Alliance Executive Director Richard Fiesta said.
“Save our Health Care” National Call-In Day is Tuesday, March 21
The Alliance for Retired Americans is organizing a national call-in day to protest the GOP’s health care replacement bill. Please call your U.S. Representative on Tuesday, March 21 and demand that the U.S. House reject the American Health Care Act. To call your U.S. Representative: U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121.
Gov. Inslee & Insurance Commissioner Kreidler Address the American Health Care Act (AHCA)
The Governor, Jay Inslee, and Insurance Commissioner, Mike Kreidler, had a joint press conference on Thursday to release their analysis on how the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would impact folks in Washington State. Their letter, along with several charts demonstrating the Washington-specific impact can be found on our website at: http://www.rpecwa.org/letter-on-ahca-from-governor-inslee-and-commissioner-kreidler/
State Legislative Town Halls
Legislators will be hosting town halls across Washington. They’re coming home from Olympia for one reason: to hear from you. Please attend the town hall in your area to let your senator and representatives know where you stand. Ask them to include the PEBB Medicare subsidy increase from $150 to $182.50 and a Plan 1 COLA in the budget.
The focus is expected to return to the 2017 legislative session’s biggest priority: the state budget.
As you can see, we have much work to do in the weeks and months ahead to continue the betterment of your retirement security. Your continued support and political action is a necessity!
Your Voice for Retirement Security!