LEGISLATON

Monthly Legislative Update for NARFE Chapters – 

       

    Postal Reform Draft Legislation Introduced in the House

    • In mid-June, a bipartisan group of representatives released a discussion draft of postal reform legislation. While it is a notable improvement over previous postal reform efforts, NARFE opposes the draft bill because it would force eligible postal retirees, their spouses and survivors to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B or forfeit their Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) coverage.
      • Thanks to NARFE’s hard work, the draft includes automatic enrollment of those required to enroll in Medicare Part B. This will ensure individuals do not risk losing their FEHBP benefits by not enrolling. Further, any increased premiums for late enrollment in Medicare are waived for those forced into the program.
      • For those not already enrolled, this would require an additional $121.80 per month (or more) in Medicare premiums. However, the draft proposal includes a three-year transition period in which the U. S. Postal Service would pay a portion of enrollees’ Medicare premiums – 75 percent in year one, 50 percent in year two and 25 percent in year three.
      • NARFE is seeking an opt-out provision that would allow those automatically enrolled to retain the choice to decline enrollment in Medicare.
        • The Senate postal reform bill (iPOST, S. 2051) includes mandatory Medicare Parts A, B and D but without the automatic enrollment and the transition period.
      • Other provisions in the draft legislation include:
        • Creation of separate, parallel health benefits plans for postal employees and retirees only. These plans are expected to have slightly lower premiums (due to cost savings generated by mandatory Medicare enrollment), but would offer the same coverage as current FEHBP plans.
          • For example, there would be a federal and a postal option for Blue Cross Blue Shield standard and basic, as well as all other plans that have at least 1,500 postal enrollees.
          • These plans would be part of a newly named Postal Service Health Benefits Program, and they would be available to postal employees and retirees only.
          • The Senate postal reform bill (iPOST, S.2051) includes a similar proposal but requires the creation of a postal option when a health insurance plan has at least 5,000 postal enrollees.
        • Preservation of six-day delivery.
        • Does not require the end of to-the-door delivery for existing addresses but provides transition to cluster box delivery for businesses, new addresses and residential areas that voluntarily consent to cluster boxes.
      • The House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee is currently welcoming public comments on the proposed legislation before introducing the actual bill. A mark-up is expected to be held the week of July 11.
      • NARFE is drafting comments for submission. Meetings between members of Congress and NARFE President Richard G. Thissen to discuss the proposals and to offer alternatives to the mandatory Medicare Part B coverage are continuing.
      • More information is available on the OGR website, including a summary of the draft. Once the legislation is introduced, NARFE will update both its printed and online postal reform materials.
      • NARFE members concerned about the mandatory Medicare enrollment provisions are strongly encouraged to share their objections with the committee through the public comments. NARFE members also can contact their senators in opposition to the iPOST legislation at the Legislative Action Center.

    Social Security Trustees Report

    • The annual Social Security Trustees Report was released in June. The report found little change overall in the finances of the Social Security Trust Fund and predicted the fund will remain solvent until 2034.
    • The report also predicted a 0.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries in 2017. Most federal annuitants and military retirees receive the same COLA as Social Security beneficiaries. The 2017 COLA will not be determined until October.
    • The small COLA could result in a significant increase in Medicare Part B premiums for some retirees – an increase that could be larger than the increase in their annuity checks. This is because of the “hold harmless” provision of Social Security law that states the dollar increase in an individual’s Part B premium is limited to the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security benefit. Unfortunately, many federal retirees who do not receive Social Security benefits, or who receive very small Social Security benefits, are not under the “hold harmless” provision and would shoulder the full cost of the Part B premium increase.
      • We saw this last year when individuals not held harmless were threatened with a 52 percent Medicare Part B premium increase. NARFE was instrumental in obtaining a fix that kept the full 52 percent increase from taking effect. Instead, premiums rose approximately 15 percent for those not held harmless.
      • This fix will apply if there is a zero COLA for 2017. However, it would not apply if there is a small COLA for 2017 – such as the 0.2 percent projected by the Social Security Trustees Report. NARFE is reaching out to members of Congress on this issue and will be looking for another legislative fix if there is a very small COLA in 2017.
    • For NARFE’s full COLA update, click here.

    DOD Phased Retirement

    • On June 21, the Department of Defense announced it will begin offering phased retirement to its civilian employees. Phased retirement allows an employee to ease into retirement while working part time. Employees mentor younger employees while still earning credit toward retirement.
    • Despite becoming law four years ago, agencies have been slow to    
              implement the program. With this announcement, the government’s largest agency joins only a handful of federal agencies to offer phased retirement. In recent weeks, the Commerce Department also announced it would offer the program.
    • NARFE’s press release on the announcement can be found here.
    • Congressional Schedule and Grassroots

      • The extended summer recess will begin in July. Both chambers are scheduled to be in session until adjourning on July 15 and will be in recess until after the Labor Day holiday.
      • August is NARFE Grassroots Advocacy Month and, because it is an election year, it also is Meet Your Candidates Month. This is the time to meet with legislators – and wannabe legislators – to talk about policies being debated on Capitol Hill. In addition to formal meetings, you can speak with members of Congress and congressional candidates at town hall meetings, community fairs and holiday parades. Tell them that NARFE’s issues are important to their constituents. And then tell the NARFE Legislative Department about your conversation by emailing advocacyinaction@narfe.org.
      • When Congress returns, it will have one month before recessing again for the election. Congress has a lot to accomplish during that month.
      • For any questions or assistance on your August grassroots preparations, please contact the Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org. You also can get updated materials on the Protect America’s Heartbeat Toolkit website.   

Obtaining the Hotline

Thank you for using the Hotline. This weekly legislative message is available to telephone callers (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234); posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org and sent to 85,000 NARFE member email addresses. Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. Each delivery channel is a service of NARFE, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. Should you have any questions regarding the information provided in the Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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