Monday, April 15, 2024

RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, March 29, 2024

RPEC Weekly NewsFlash, March 29, 2024

Governor Inslee Signs Plan 1 COLA Bill

It’s official! For the third consecutive year, PERS 1 and TRS 1 retirees will receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). On Tuesday, March 26, Governor Jay Inslee signed Substitute House Bill 1985, providing Plan 1 retirees with a one-time 3% COLA not to exceed $110 per month. The COLA will be reflected in pension checks received at the end of July 2024.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Joe Timmons, a freshman Democrat representing part of Bellingham and rural Whatcom County. In his short time in the Legislature, Timmons has quickly earned a reputation as an effective advocate for retirees. In 2023, he introduced and passed House Bill 1431, which exempts meals prepared for tenants at senior living communities from sales tax.

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PEBB Premium Bill Secures Governor’s Signature

On Tuesday, March 19, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2481, waiving Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) health insurance premiums for retirees in the month that they pass away. The bill addresses a serious issue that affects the survivors of many retired public employees after their loved ones die.

Under current policy, pension payments are prorated in the month that a retiree passes away. The prorating process interrupts the typical pension payment process that the Department of Retirement Systems follows, stopping the automatic health insurance premium payments that many retirees elect to have automatically deducted from their pensions. The Health Care Authority (HCA) must then contact the deceased retirees’ survivors and invoice them for the health insurance premium. If the premium is not paid by the survivors in time, the retiree loses their Medicare supplemental health insurance coverage in their final month of life, potentially passing on massive medical expenses to the survivors.

HB 2481, which will come into effect on June 6, will simplify the confusing process that HCA and survivors must follow by automatically waiving PEBB health insurance premium payments for all retirees in the month that they pass away.  Retirees who pay their health insurance premiums via other methods will have their final payment refunded when they pass away. This solution will make settling the affairs of loved ones slightly less stressful for survivors.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Mike Volz, Republican of Spokane.  Representative Volz serves on the Select Committee on Pension Policy, which brought this issue to the Legislature’s attention last year.

Proposed Budget Targets Medicare, Social Security

A budget, recently proposed by the Republican Study Committee (RSC), calls for more than $1.5 trillion in cuts to Social Security, raising the retirement age to 69 “to account for increases in life expectancy,” and cutting disability benefits. These “increases in life expectancy” are true for top earners. However, low-income and low-wealth individuals have not shared in these improvements. Since the 1980’s, government policies to reduce tax rates and shrink social safety nets have led to a significant increase in income inequality, which coincides with disparities in health and longevity. Further slashing these earned benefits would only exacerbate the issue.

Moreover, the budget repeals key provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that have and will benefit public sector retirees. For instance, repealing the Act will remove the ability for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to negotiate prescription drug costs. This provision was designed to increase the affordability of the most common medications prescribed to seniors. The budget proposal would also repeal the $35 insulin cap, which was effective in 2022, and the $2,000 out-of-pocket prescription drug cap planned for 2025 for retirees with Part D coverage. The RSC budget proposal also calls for ending Medicare’s guaranteed health care benefits and converting it to a “premium support model.” Subsidies and regulations of the Affordable Care Act aimed at extending insurance coverage would also be rolled back.

AFSCME Retirees and other national retiree organizations have vocalized concern about the budget proposal and its potentially catastrophic impacts on retirees. RPEC will continue to advocate to preserve the funding for your well-earned Social Security and Medicare benefits. In the coming election cycle, RPEC will continue to endorse candidates, at state and federal levels, who will safeguard these critical retirement benefits.

RPEC Leadership Training

Are you interested in being a future leader for your chapter or RPEC’s Executive Board? Are you curious to see what leadership entails? Are you a newly elected chapter officer or have you been recently re-elected? 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 via Zoom: Leadership Training and AFSCME Financial Standards Training. Registration will open once the dates have been confirmed. The training is expected to take place in June.

The training 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.

Upcoming Events:

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

  • April 2 – PSARA & Social Security Works Webinar (5:00 pm)
  • April 5 – Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • April 11 – Public Employees Benefits Board (9:00 am)
  • April 11 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
  • April 12 – Legislative Committee Meeting (10:00 am)
  • 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)

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