Friday, April 19, 2024

RPEC Weekly Newsflash, September 1, 2023

RPEC Weekly Newsflash, September 1, 2023

Call-to-Action Campaign! We Need Your Help!

President Biden and Speaker McCarthy agreed upon a bipartisan budget bill. However, some newly proposed funding bill cuts, by some House members, would negatively impact many public services due to the lack of adequate funding and slash federal funding levels by almost 30%. If not agreed upon soon, a stalemate could lead to a federal government shutdown.

Although your Social Security and Medicare payments will not be impacted, there is still the possibility of cuts being proposed that could adversely impact these federal earned-benefit programs, along with the likelihood of service delays. Proposed funding bill cuts will also affect public safety, education, and many other needed public services by slashing federal funding headed to states and cities.

Join us in signing onto our letter to your Congressperson, which urges them to oppose any cuts to Social Security and Medicare and avoid a shutdown by passing 2024 federal spending bills. If you have already signed on and sent a letter, thank you for helping and you do not have to do it again.

Click here to send our letter!

Instructions:

  1. Click the above link.
  2. Click ‘Start Writing’ in the right-hand column.
  3. Select your prefix (ex. Mr. or Mrs.).
  4. Select “Government Operations and Politics” as the topic.
  5. Click ‘Send Letter’. 

Protecting Your Email & Avoiding Online Scams Webinar

RPEC is committed to helping our members wherever possible. This includes educating them on ways to protect their email from potential hacking or intrusion and avoiding various scams they may encounter through their email.

We will be hosting a one-hour long educational webinar on Protecting Your Email & Avoiding Online Scams on Friday, September 8th from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm.

You need to register in advance through Zoom using the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvceqprTwoEtco79jvKTngyTZv-En5b-rb. Zoom will confirm your registration and send you a link to the meeting. We will send you a reminder link a day prior to the meeting as well.

We all encounter potential scams through email and seniors tend to be the more vulnerable population targeted by scammers. This webinar will provide you with the tools and knowledge to better secure your email, identify potential scams more easily, and reduce your chances of being scammed. We hope you will take an hour and join us!

U.S. Announces First 10 Drugs for Medicare Price Negotiations

Ahead of its September 1st deadline, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a list of the first 10 prescription drugs that Medicare can negotiate prices with the drug manufacturers. This historic precedent was the result of the Inflation Reduction Act passed into law last year. This law finally allows Medicare to negotiate prices on some of the more costly drugs that seniors use, just as the Medicare Advantage program has been able to do since its inception. This is one small step in making traditional Medicare equitable with its competing Medicare Advantage plans. The drugs selected for this first round of negotiations are as follows:

  • Eliquis – blood thinner
  • Enbrel – rheumatoid arthritis
  • Entresto – heart failure
  • Farxiga – diabetes, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease
  • Fiasp and NovoLog- diabetes
  • Imbruvica – leukemia
  • Januvia – diabetes
  • Jardiance – diabetes
  • Stelara – arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease
  • Xarelto – blood thinner

The drugs listed above accounted for approximately 20% of total cost of drugs in the Medicare Prescription drug program (Part D). The new prices are scheduled to go into effect in 2026. This will benefit about 9 million seniors who currently pay as much as $6,497 in out-of-pocket costs for these prescription medications. Another 15 drugs will be selected in 2027 for price negotiations, followed by another 15 drugs in 2028 and 20 more in each subsequent year. Many drug manufacturers are reluctant to comply but face stiff penalties or removal from the Medicare prescription drug program if they do not agree to the negotiations.

To learn more, read the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release on our website at: https://rpecwa.org/hhs-selects-the-first-drugs-for-medicare-drug-price-negotiation/

PEBB Update

As noted in the membership newsletter you received in your mailboxes in August, all healthcare plans managed by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) will have premium increases in January 2024.

2024 PEBB Medicare retiree single subscriber premiums

Medicare Retiree plans Single subscriber premium*
2023 2024
Kaiser NW Senior Advantage $176.13 $193.95
Kaiser WA Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare $174.59 $188.62
UMP Classic Medicare $438.34 $532.94
UnitedHealthcare PEBB Complete $145.63 $160.58
UnitedHealthcare PEBB Balance $122.94 $135.65
Premera Medicare Supplement Plan F (Retired) $115.16 $119.05
Premera Medicare Supplement Plan F (Disabled) $196.69 $207.45
Premera Medicare Supplement Plan G (Retired) $98.53 $101.99
Premera Medicare Supplement Plan G (Disabled) $164.05 $169.20

*These premiums are already reduced by the legislatively mandated Medicare subsidy of $183 per month (or 50% of the monthly premium, whichever is less) and include the HCA administrative fee of $5.96 per month for 2024.

November 1-30 is open enrollment, the monthlong time when retirees who earn their healthcare benefits through PEBB, may change healthcare plans. The Health Care Authority (HCA) will cover details about open enrollment in the PEBB October newsletter, which you will receive in the mail by mid- to late-October. HCA is also preparing website pages on open enrollment, which will be “live” on November 1st. In the meantime, information is available at this link to help you prepare for open enrollment. PEBB and SEBB members: Prepare for open enrollment | Washington State Health Care Authority.

In addition to offering information and videos on the website, HCA will host in-person benefits fairs in November. More details about the in-person benefits fairs will be available on the HCA website later this month. The proposed dates/locations include:

  • November 1: Vancouver and Spokane
  • November 2: Centralia and Cheney
  • November 3: Olympia/Lacey and Pullman
  • November 6: Bellingham and Pasco
  • November 7: Everett and Yakima
  • November 8: Shoreline/Seattle and Ellensburg
  • November 9: Tacoma/Lakewood
  • November 14: Port Angeles and Bremerton

Finally, as noted in previous communication to our members, RPEC anticipates providing videotaped information from SHIBA to help our members to better understand Medicare, the PEBB plan options, and how to navigate the PEBB open enrollment period with the least amount of stress. More details will be available in October.

Executive Board Approves Resolutions for Consideration at the WSARA Annual Convention 

At the August meeting of RPEC’s Executive Board, the Board took unanimous action to approve two resolutions for consideration by delegates attending the September 12th annual convention of the Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans (WSARA).

The first resolution, modeled after the resolution unanimously approved last summer at the annual convention of the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC), calls for the restoration of an annual cost-of-living adjustment for retirees vested in Plans 1.

The second calls for the Legislature to remove the $183 cap on the explicit subsidy that the state provides to Medicare-eligible retirees to lower healthcare premiums for plans offered and overseen by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). The current statute states that the explicit subsidy is either 50% of the premium or up to $183. While that monthly offset is helpful, plans like the Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare have soared by 42% over the last two years with the single-payer amount exceeding $500 in 2024. The resolution calls for the removal of the $183 cap and equal cost-sharing between employers (the state, counties, cities, and municipalities) and retirees.

Maurice Garrott, RPEC Vice President, and Laurie Weidner, RPEC Executive Director, will speak in favor of both resolutions at the WSARA Convention, as will other RPEC delegates.

Plan 1 COLA Resolution

https://rpecwa.org/wp-content/uploads/WSARA_Resolution_2023_Plan_1_COLA.pdf

PEBB Resolution

https://rpecwa.org/wp-content/uploads/WSARA_Resolution_2023_Increase_Employer_Support_to_PEBB_Retiree_Health_Care_Costs.pdf

RPEC Executive Board Member to be Inducted into 2023 Northwest African American Museum Elders Circle

Congratulations to RPEC Executive Board District 9 representative and Chapter 3 member, Claude Burfect, for his upcoming induction into the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM)’s 2023 African American Elders Circle! Claude is a lifelong labor and civil rights activist who also does incredible work to strengthen RPEC through his community outreach and close relationships with legislators.

On National Grandparents Day & African American Elders Day, Claude will be recognized for his work as a civic and union leader, along with Kibibi Monie, storyteller and NuBlack Arts West Director; Lyle Quasim, leader of the Black Collective; and Dr. Mona Lake Jones, educator, author, and poet.

The event takes place at the NAAM in Seattle on Sunday, September 10th from 2:00 pm-4:00 pm. Additionally, the celebration includes a book giveaway, free food, interactive story time, and a variety of performances and entertainment. Admission is complimentary for seniors, and $10 for other attendees.

For more information and to register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/grandparents-day-african-american-elders-day-celebration-tickets-710273104977?aff=oddtdtcreator.

Upcoming Events:

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

  • Sept. 4 – Council Office Closed, Labor Day
  • Sept. 8 – Political Action Committee Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Sept. 8 – Protecting Your Email & Avoiding Online Scams Webinar (1:00 pm)
  • Sept. 10 – National Grandparents Day & African American Elders Day
  • Sept. 12 – WSARA Convention, Federal Way
  • Sept. 14 – Healthcare Workgroup Meeting (3:30 pm)
  • Sept. 15 – Monthly Leadership Call (1:00 pm)
  • Sept. 18 – Senior Lobby (10:00 am)
  • Sept. 19 – Select Committee on Pension Policy Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Sept. 22 – Pension Policy Workgroup Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Sept. 28 – Healthcare Workgroup Meeting (3:30 pm)
  • Oct. 6 – Legislative Committee Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Oct. 6 – Monthly Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)

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