RPEC Weekly ACTION Newsletter – March 3, 2017
State Legislative Update
Next week a couple hundred public sector retirees will descend on Olympia to bring attention to the need to restore the benefits that the legislature cut during difficult financial times. The numbers have doubled from last year because the financial pressure on retirees is mounting.
We are asking retirees who are unable to join us next week to assist by calling their State Legislators at (800) 562-6000 and ask them to support a COLA for plan 1 retirees and the restoration of the PEBB Medicare benefit to $182.50 in the budget.
Congress & Healthcare Cuts
We are hearing that the House that Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees will begin marking up legislation next week (likely Wednesday) to repeal and replace the ACA and restructure Medicaid.
Speaker Ryan said he would bury the Medicare changes in the legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. So far, from the little that we have found out, it includes:
- Changing the Age discrimination clause to allow insurance companies to charge seniors 5 times more than other age groups, which is an increase from maximum currently allowed of 3 times the amount charged to other ages groups.
- Cutting Medicaid which pays the long-term care costs for millions of seniors and provides health care services to people with disabilities and low-income Americans.
There is concern that the replacement will include:
- An End to Free Annual Wellness Exams and Preventive Screenings – The ACA has provided free annual wellness exams for seniors since 2011.
- An End of Prescription Drug Discounts – The reemergence of the Medicare Part D “donut hole” scheduled in the ACA to be closed which beneficiaries fell into when their prescription costs were between $3700 and $4950.
- Protections against Discrimination for Pre-existing Conditions – The ACA prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions.
News reports are that the majority is trying to keep the actual bill language a secret until the very last minute. Republican lawmakers on the committees must go to a room to review the bill but cannot have a copy. Democrats won’t receive a bill until late Sunday. The bill will be voted on without a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis. This means lawmakers and the public will not know how many people will lose overage and the implications of the bill for state budgets when the committee votes on the bill.
We must therefore pressure the majority to provide an open and transparent process so that there is an opportunity for input, hearings, and a CBO score before the first vote is cast. Rep. Dave Reichart is on the House Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Please call both of them using the toll-free number 1-888-853-7037 to discuss the following key points:
- “What’s the big secret? Show us your plan that allows 30 million Americans to keep their coverage, protects Medicaid, and makes monthly premiums, co-pays and prescription medicines affordable for all.”
- There must be an open and transparent process before taking health insurance away from tens of millions of people, increasing taxes and out-of-pocket health care costs for working people, and destroying Medicaid.
- The “secret plan” needs to be debated responsibly under regular order – there needs to be an opportunity for input, hearings, and a CBO score before the first vote is cast in Committee.
Contacting your Federal Officials just got easier!
If you would like to have the office numbers of our US Senators and your Representative in Congress saved in your contact list you can send a text message with your Zip Code to (520) 200-2223. You will receive a reply message with the contact information that you can then save in your phone.
Here is a link to the list of bills currently of focus to RPEC: http://www.rpecwa.org/bill-summary-3-03-2017/
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!