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RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, April 12, 2024

RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, April 12, 2024

National Social Security Month Aligns with RPEC’s Federal Legislative Priorities

April is National Social Security Month, a time to celebrate a program that millions of retired public employees rely on to supplement their pensions and personal savings to provide retirement security. Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans aged 65 and older receive Social Security benefits. It’s not just a monthly check; it’s a lifeline that ensures dignity, stability, and peace of mind during retirement for 49.4 million Americans. Preserving and expanding Social Security benefits remains one of RPEC’s leading federal priorities. RPEC members regularly organize to oppose legislation that will negatively impact current Social Security recipients, as well as efforts to trim benefits for current working-class adults who are counting on this benefit in retirement.

The Social Security Act, signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, was a transformative moment in American history. It emerged during the Great Depression, a time when poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50%. The Act aimed to address the perils of modern life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the struggles faced by widows and parentless children. Today, Social Security remains as important as ever, as many low wage workers cannot afford to otherwise save for retirement.

Unfortunately, Social Security benefits are constantly under threat from politicians in DC. In March, the House Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 170 Congressional Republicans, released a budget that would raise the retirement age to 69, effectively cutting benefits for future retirees by 13%. While Social Security does face funding concerns due to demographic changes, cutting benefits is the wrong way to address the issue.

While almost everyone pays for Social Security, not everyone pays the same amount to garner this earned benefit. Only the first $168,600 of an individual’s income is taxed, meaning that 7% of high earners get a big tax break and stop paying into Social Security after they pass this threshold. Eliminating this tax break for the wealthy, or “scrapping the cap,” would dramatically increase the health of the Social Security trust funds and sustain the program well into the future.

As we celebrate National Social Security Month, let’s honor its enduring legacy and protect it for all present and future retirees. You can do your part by staying informed about legislation through RPEC’s weekly NewsFlash and by visiting the website at www.rpecwa.org. Your voice and advocacy matter. Join RPEC in our efforts to preserve and expand Social Security.

PEBB Approves New Pharmacy Benefit for UMP Classic Medicare

At yesterdays’ meeting of the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB), the board unanimously voted to change the pharmacy benefit for Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare. Instead of remaining as a self-insured pharmacy plan, the benefit will transition in 2025 to a Part D pharmacy plan, managed by PEBB. By making this change in the configuration of the plan, UMP Classic Medicare’s pharmacy benefit will access federal prescription drug subsidies, thereby lowering the overall premium costs for this plan. The medical benefits will not change, and Moda will continue as the pharmacy manager to maintain member support and continuity of coverage.

The Health Care Authority (HCA) anticipates that the new pharmacy benefit will lower premiums by up to several hundred dollars per month and will reduce pharmacy-related out-of-pocket costs for most UMP Classic Medicare subscribers.

The change to the pharmacy benefit was initiated by RPEC and the PEBB Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition, which was formed and is chaired by RPEC.

RPEC will partner with HCA on a robust educational campaign for retirees about the new pharmacy benefit and drug coverage.

You will also find extensive handouts on the new pharmacy benefit at www.hca.wa.gov.  Search for the PEBB briefing booklets for the March 21st and April 11th meetings.

RPEC Leadership Training – SAVE THE DATE!

Are you interested in being a future leader for your chapter or serving on RPEC’s Executive Board? Are you a newly elected or re-elected chapter officer? We encourage any member who is interested in or is curious to know more about leadership to attend RPEC’s annual virtual Leadership Training. This training is necessary for all re-elected and new chapter officers.

This will be a 2-part training on Zoom: Leadership Training, led by the Council Office on June 10th, and the AFSCME Financial Standards Training on June 14th. The registration deadline is May 17th.

Register here: https://2024.rpecwa.org/2024-leadership-training/

The training has been amended to align with the new Strategic Plan implemented by the Executive Board and will cover topics including: RPEC’s organizational structure, effectively communicating with your chapter, interacting with and recruiting potential members, mobilizing your chapter for legislative advocacy, running successful meetings, and more. The tools and content for the training are updated and improved upon each year, so please plan to participate even if you have already done so in the past.

To the leaders who are maintaining their position of office, we look forward to continuing our work with you. To those that are new to leadership, welcome, and we hope you are as excited as we are about the path ahead of you. With a strong foundation of chapter leaders, there is no limit to what RPEC can accomplish.

Medical Bill Negotiating Service – Your AFSCME Advantage Benefits

We recognize the importance of cutting costs when living on a fixed income. That’s why our robust array of member-only benefits provides discounts and cost savings on a variety of different services through our affiliation with AFSCME. One of these benefits is free medical bill negotiation services through Health Advocate. If you have an outstanding medical bill of $400 or more from a single provider, you are eligible to apply for this service. There is no limit on the number of providers with which the service will negotiate on your behalf.

For more information about the service, send an email to grants@unionplus.org or view the benefit page at: https://www.unionplus.org/benefits/health/medical-bill-negotiating-service?union=AFSCME

To apply, you will need your ID number which is assigned by AFSCME. If you aren’t sure of your ID number or if you haven’t received a member card from AFSCME, please contact the RPEC Membership Coordinator, Jakob Canup, at jakob.canup@rpecwa.org.

Upcoming Events:

Please refer to our calendar page for more information for each event, including links to Zoom meetings, if available.

  • April 16 – Select Committee on Pension Policy (10:00 am)
  • April 19 – Pension Policy Workgroup (10:00 am)
  • April 25 – Membership Committee Meeting (10:00 am)
  • April 25 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
  • May 3 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • May 6 – Executive Board Meeting (9:00 am)
  • May 7 – Executive Board Meeting, Strategic Planning (9:00 am)
  • May 9 – Public Employees Benefits Board (9:00 am)
  • May 9 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
  • May 17 – Leadership Training Registration Deadline

Your Voice for Retirement Security!

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