Sunday, February 25, 2024

RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, January 26, 2024

RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, January 26, 2024

Retiree Priorities Make Progress & Concessions

On Thursday, January 25, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed House Bill (HB) 1985, providing a one-time 3% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Plan 1 retirees. However, citing a tight budget, the committee amended the bill to reduce the maximum monthly benefit from $125 to $110. Under the $110 cap, 84% of eligible Plan 1 retirees get a full 3% COLA, where 92% of eligible retirees would receive a full 3% under the $125 cap.

PERS 1 & and TRS 1 (referred to collectively as Plan 1) are the only pension plans managed by the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) that do not receive automatic ongoing COLAs. RPEC has played a major role in passing four bills to provide one-time COLAs for Plan 1 retirees:

  • 2018: 1.5% COLA capped at $62.50 per month
  • 2020: 3% COLA capped at $62.50 per month
  • 2022: 3% COLA capped at $110 per month
  • 2023: 3% COLA capped at $110 per month.  This bill also requires the Select Committee on Pension Policy (SCPP) to study and recommend an ongoing COLA proposal to the Legislature by the end of 2024.

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Changes Likely Ahead for UMP Classic Medicare

On February 1, all retirees who are covered by UMP Classic Medicare are urged to attend the PEB Board annual retreat (virtual via Zoom) to learn about changes that could be made in 2025 to the plan.

With premium costs skyrocketing for this plan, RPEC, in concert with the PEBB Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition (formed and led by RPEC), worked last legislative session to secure a budget proviso that required the Health Care Authority (HCA) to explore healthcare options that provided benefits equal to or greater than those provided by UMP Classic Medicare but with more affordable premiums.  The proviso directed HCA to study potential options only. By design, it did not require HCA to make a recommendation on an option to replace UMP Classic Medicare.  The study findings were summarized in a report provided to the Legislature in late December.

The report summarizes three options. HCA intends to urge the PEB Board to select Option 2 (page 62) to replace UMP Classic Medicare. Option 2 will reconfigure the pharmaceutical portion of UMP Classic Medicare, so that it is eligible for federal prescription drug subsidies. The pharmaceutical benefit will convert to a Medicare Plan D through an Employer Group Waiver Plan (EGWP). This change is expected to lower premiums by $200-243 per month for a single subscriber. This option could, indeed, keep the plan within financial reach for more RPEC members.

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RPEC Takes Action to Preserve Federal Retirement Benefits  

Fiscal Commission Act of 2023 Clears House Budget Committee – Moves to House Vote

Your federal retirement benefits are, again, at risk thanks to legislation that was approved last week in the House Budget Committee and is poised for a full House vote.

In December, RPEC reported about a concerning piece of legislation, the Fiscal Commission Act of 2023 (H.R. 5779), which both the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Retirees and the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) warned could jeopardize funding for both Social Security and Medicare. Last week, on January 18th, the bill was advanced from the House Budget Committee for a full House vote. The bill will create a 16-member fiscal commission to search for ways to reduce the national deficit and balance the national budget.

Retiree and senior advocacy organizations fear the Commission will prioritize Social Security and Medicare funding cuts over other federal expenditures based on public comments rendered by House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has been a vocal advocate for this legislation and the reduction of federal retirement benefits for seniors.

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Successful Virtual RPEC/WEA-R Joint Legislative Day Provides Timely Input to Legislators

We would like to give a huge shout out to those who attended this year’s virtual Legislative Day for their outstanding work during the training session and their advocacy in legislative meetings. Members quickly adapted to all the sudden logistical changes (due to the shift to a virtual format) and made the most out of their 15-minute meetings with legislators and their policy staff.

Over 200 members registered for the event from both RPEC and WEA-R. Approximately 150 participated in the training session (note that some registrants only attended meetings with their legislators). The training session featured State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti as the key speaker and included valuable information and tools for staying on message, sharing your story, and maximizing legislator meetings.

More than half of the 86 confirmed meetings were with legislators. Members were organized, professional, and concise as they discussed our priorities and asked for a commitment to support HB 1985. Thanks to the work you have done to build strong relationships with your elected officials through the legislative interim, most legislators were already aware that Plan 1 retirees do not receive an ongoing cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and seemed to be in favor of not only an ad hoc COLA, but also the restoration of an ongoing Plan 1 COLA in the future.

Thank you all for your hard work and advocacy in making this event such a huge success. We look forward to seeing you next year!

RPEC Bill Tracker 1-26-2024

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

Upcoming Events:

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

  • Feb. 1 – Public Employees Benefits Board Virtual Retreat (9:00 am, see above)
  • Feb. 1 – Membership Committee Meeting (10:00 am, rescheduled from Jan. 25)
  • Feb. 2 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • Feb. 8 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
  • Feb. 9 – Legislative Committee Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Feb. 9 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • Feb. 16 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • Feb. 19 – Council Office closed, Presidents’ Day
  • Feb. 22 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
  • Feb. 23 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • Feb. 26 – Executive Board Meeting (9:00 am)
  • Mar. 1 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)

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