Monday, April 15, 2024

RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, February 23, 2024

RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, February 23, 2024

RPEC Priorities Advance

RPEC’s legislative priorities continue to advance ahead of the end of the state legislative session on March 7. Substitute House Bill 1985, which provides a one-time 3% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees not to exceed $110 per month, and House Bill 2481, which prevents retirees from losing their Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) health insurance during their final month of life, both had hearings in Senate Ways & Means on February 20. RPEC President Clair Olivers and Secretary and Legislative Committee Chair Nancy Heley testified in support of the respective bills.  Retirees did an excellent job of communicating support to the Legislature, with the two bills receiving nearly 2,000 sign-ins. Both bills are scheduled for executive session in Ways & Means on Friday, February 23. If all goes well, both will be passed from Ways & Means to Senate Rules by the end of the week.

Following a positive fiscal forecast, both legislative chambers released their proposed budgets at the beginning of the week. While the House’s budget provided funding for SHB 1985, the Senate’s budget did not. This was not a surprise, as the Senate has not passed SHB 1985 yet, which started in the House and does not have a Senate companion bill. President Clair Olivers testified, sharing our concerns. All information indicates that the Senate will pass SHB 1985 and allow funding for the COLA to be negotiated into the final budget.

Provide Your Input to the Health Care Authority by March 8

If you are covered under Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare through the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB), you have until March 8 to provide input on a new pharmaceutical benefit that could significantly lower premium costs. The medical portion of UMP Classic Medicare would remain unchanged if the new pharmaceutical benefit is adopted by the PEB Board at its April meeting. The agency is asking for retiree feedback this month.  You can share your input by attending the last open virtual town hall (registration link below) or by emailing or writing to HCA. (See details below).  All feedback must be received by March 8.

Virtual Town Hall, February 27 at 2:00 pm

Space is still available for those wishing to attend the virtual February 27 town hall meeting. Register today to provide your input. On the HCA website, clicking the link under the header “Join the conversation” will take you to the webinar recording and how to sign up for the town halls. All participants have been asked to watch the webinar before attending a town hall meeting. The webinar provides detailed information about the potential new pharmaceutical benefit.

Details about the potential new pharmacy benefit and instructions on how to sign up for the final virtual town hall meeting are available at Retiree engagement | Washington State Health Care Authority.

Other Ways to Share Feedback

Health Care Authority PEBB UMP Medicare Feedback
P.O. Box 42684
Olympia, WA 98504 

New Resources Now Available

HCA has added the following new tools to the agency’s website:

No decision has been made about the adoption of the proposed pharmaceutical benefit. The PEB Board directed HCA to seek input from stakeholders about this potential new configuration. Stakeholder feedback will be shared at the PEB Board’s March 23 meeting.  The PEB Board may vote on this matter at its April 11 meeting.

RPEC Bill Tracker 2-23-2024

Want to stay up to date on the progress of bills that impact your retirement security? Check out RPEC’s bill tracker. It’s updated every Friday and includes important information on the most important bills of this legislative session. The tracker allows you to stay up to date on our bills and our work to influence their progress. Click here to view the bill tracker.

Have questions about any of the bills that RPEC is paying attention to? Please join us on Fridays at 2:00 PM for RPEC’s weekly Legislative Update Zoom call. Each session includes an update on the progress of RPEC’s priorities and an opportunity for members to ask questions. All members are welcome to participate. Here is the meeting login information:

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89045365250?pwd=cHYvbU80d08xTXRLTmpOZGF1VW53QT09

Meeting ID: 890 4536 5250
Passcode: 320296
Dial in: (253) 215-8782 

Political Action on the Horizon in 2024

While presidential and congressional elections often steal the focus of the media, state elections have just as much capacity to impact one’s life. This is especially true for retired public employees, who depend on the state legislature to make responsible decisions when it comes to funding pensions and maintaining health insurance benefits. With the Governor and all other statewide executive positions up for election, there is much at stake this year.

The outcome of this year’s state level elections will determine what RPEC can achieve in Olympia over the next four years. Thanks to over a decade of hard work by retirees, in 2025 the State Legislature will have an opportunity to finally restore an automatic ongoing cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees. These retirees belong to the only pension plans administered by the Department of Retirement Systems to not receive automatic COLAs. The ongoing COLA proposal will have no hope of passing without a pro-retiree legislature and governor in office.

Even more could be at stake in 2024, with one or more initiatives with the potential to affect the state budget likely appearing on the ballot in November. If voters choose to repeal existing taxes, the legislature could be forced to make cuts to existing programs to make ends meet. This outcome would make it almost impossible to pass any sort of benefit increase in 2025 and could put existing benefits at risk.

Fortunately, RPEC has a political action committee (PAC). The RPEC PAC’s goal is to identify pro-retiree candidates and help elect them to the state legislature and statewide office. Pro-retiree candidates, which come in many different shapes, sizes, and political affiliations, are united by their commitment to protecting the pensions and benefits that you earned through your public service. Soon after the legislative session concludes on March 7, the RPEC PAC will begin vetting candidates and making campaign contributions. However, we need funds to be able to support the campaigns of candidates that will further our goals. Currently, 1,041 (about 1 in 12) RPEC members make monthly contributions to the RPEC PAC by having an amount of their choosing automatically deducted from their pension. We are grateful to all the members who go above and beyond paying dues to make contributions to the RPEC PAC. If you aren’t currently contributing, please consider signing up to make a small monthly contribution. The monthly contribution authorization form can be found here.

Stay tuned for opportunities to participate in RPEC PAC activities in 2024.

Upcoming Events:

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

  • Feb. 26 – Executive Board Meeting (9:00 am)
  • Feb. 27 – PEBB UMP Classic Medicare Town Hall (2:00 pm)
  • Feb. 29 – PEBB UMP Classic Medicare Town Hall, in-person in Olympia (10:00 am)
  • Mar. 1 – RPEC Convention Call
  • Mar. 1 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • Mar. 7 – Sine Die (end of Legislative Session)
  • Mar. 8 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • Mar. 14 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
  • Mar. 15 – Legislative Committee Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Mar. 21 – Public Employees Benefits Board (9:00 am)
  • Mar. 28 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)

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