RPEC Weekly Newsflash, February 24, 2023
Bill to Protect PEBB Benefits Passes Senate Health & Long-term Care Committee with Amendment
On Friday, February 17, the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee passed Substitute Senate Bill 5169, legislation to protect retirees who get health insurance through the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB).
The bill, which was introduced by Senator Sam Hunt (D, Olympia), will require the Health Care Authority (HCA) to conduct listening sessions to learn what retirees value in health insurance plans. These findings will be used to make plan decisions and will be submitted to the legislature in a report.
The bill originally included a provision to require PEBB to continue to offer Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare, the most popular health insurance plan among PEBB retirees. This provision was removed via an amendment sponsored by Senator June Robinson (D, Everett). In speaking to the amendment, Senator Robinson said that due to the fluidity of health plans, the Legislature should avoid writing laws that required specific health insurance plans to be offered.
Plans 1 Pension Bills Pass Ways & Means
On Monday, February 20, the Washington State Senate Ways & Means Committee passed two important Plans 1 pension bills. Senate Bill 5350 will provide PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees with a 3% cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) in July 2023, not to exceed $110 per month. It also includes language that RPEC helped craft to direct the Select Committee on Pension Policy to study and recommend an ongoing COLA for Plans 1 retirees. In executive session, Senator Lynda Wilson (R, Vancouver) offered an amendment to soften this language. Senator Steve Conway (D, Tacoma), the bill’s primary sponsor, spoke against the proposed amendment, and Democrats defeated it in a party line voice vote.
The bill was passed out of committee almost unanimously, with Senate Republican Leader John Braun of Lewis County voting “without recommendation”. It now moves to the Senate Rules Committee where it will wait to be “pulled” and scheduled for a Senate floor vote. If it passes the Legislature, all Plans 1 retirees will receive COLAs in consecutive years for the first time since 2010. It will also set the stage for the Select Committee on Pension Policy to begin work on an ongoing COLA proposal after the Legislature adjourns on April 24.
Health Care Authority Listening Sessions and Public Forums begin in March
The Health Care Authority (HCA) will be hosting virtual listening sessions and public forums via Zoom to hear from public sector retirees who receive their healthcare benefits from the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). These stakeholder engagements are being held to glean insights to improve HCA service to retirees and to help inform future healthcare plan decisions and features.
The listening sessions will be held weekly, beginning March 14. Each will include 12 participants who subscribe to each of the healthcare plans offered by PEBB.
HCA Pilot Listening Session – February 28, 10-11:30 a.m.
After working with the Health Care Authority (HCA) staff since last summer, the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition has finalized the details of the pilot listening session. The pilot will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, February 28 from 10-11:30 a.m. Given the short timeline for retiree recruitment to participate in the pilot, Coalition partners identified the 12 participants based on their healthcare plan coverage. We thank the following RPEC members for volunteering their time to participate in the pilot: Dina Burstein (a new RPEC member of Chapter 3, Seattle), Amy Fortier (Chapter 23, Port Angeles), Sharon Etheridge (Chapter 13, Spokane), Claude Burfect (Executive Board District 9 representative & Chapter 3, Seattle), Mike Warren (Chapter 3, Seattle), Matt Groshong (Healthcare Workgroup Chair & Chapter 3, Seattle), Aruna Bhuta (Chapter 13, Spokane), and Phil Jones (Chapter 18, Grays Harbor).
The pilot will be used to refine the listening session model for the full rollout of the listening sessions which begin on March 14.
WFSE Member Resource Fair
RPEC had the pleasure of being invited to host a table at the WFSE Member Resource Fair on February 22nd at the DSHS Pierce North Community Services Office. This event was the first of its kind since pre-pandemic and kicks off the reinstatement of these resource fairs being hosted monthly. An invitation has been extended to RPEC to attend future resource fairs in 2023. Representing RPEC at the event were Membership Coordinator, Jakob Canup, and RPEC Chapter 30 President, Debbie Haigh. Thank you, Debbie, for your efforts in helping the Council build strong relationships with our union siblings, and thank you to Sean Dannen, WFSE Field Supervisor, for reaching out to us about this opportunity.
WFSE Local Presentation
Over the last couple months, RPEC has given presentations at WFSE Local Member Meetings outlining the benefits of membership with RPEC and why union members should seek out RPEC when they are approaching retirement. Just as their union has represented them in employment, RPEC will represent them in retirement. On Wednesday, February 22nd, RPEC Membership Coordinator, Jakob Canup, gave a presentation to the members present at the Local 53 Member Meeting. Thank you to Patti Dailey-Shives, Secretary of Local 53 and new Associate Member of RPEC, for inviting the Council to present to their members.
Upcoming Events Through March:
Please refer to our calendar page for more information for each event, including links to Zoom meetings, if available.
- February 27th – Executive Board meeting (9:00 am)February 28th – HCA pilot listening session (10:00-11:30 am)
- March 3rd – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
- March 9th – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
- March 10th – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
- March 17th – Legislative Committee meeting (10:00 am)
- March 17th – Monthly Leadership Call (1:00 pm)
- March 17th – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
- March 20th – Senior Lobby (10:00 am)
- March 23rd – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
- March 24th – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
- March 31st — Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)