In This Edition
- RPEC Legislative Day Success
- WA State Legislative Bill Summary
- Congress Delivers Budget Deal Overnight
RPEC Legislative Day Success
RPEC members and WEA-Retired joined forces for a fantastic Lobby Day. The over 200 attendees had meetings with 85% of all legislators and/or their staff. These meetings took place right before the cutoff deadline for all fiscal bills going to Ways and Means Committee in the Senate and the Appropriations Committee in the House. This resulted in our issues including both the Plan 1 COLA and the PEBB Medicare supplement being at the forefront of their minds as the legislators who served on those committees went into vote.
While many legislators have repeatedly stated that it would be difficult to get a COLA bill passed in a short session focused on an already tight supplemental budget, the Senate Ways and Means committee did pass Senate Bill 6340. This bill was moved by the Select Committee for Pension Policy (SCPP) after much testimony from Plan 1 retirees. This bill would provide a one-time 3% COLA to Plan 1 members with a maximum monthly benefit of $62.50 ($750/ year). Unfortunately, they passed it with an amendment to reduce the COLA to a one-time 2% COLA while maintaining a maximum monthly benefit of $62.50. This increase, while appreciated from a tight budget, would in no way compensate for the 25% loss in purchasing power of Plan 1 members.
RPEC Position: While we want Senate Bill 6340 to continue moving to provide some relief, we ask that the legislature make providing a permanent COLA a high priority moving forward. In addition, we continue to ask that the legislature support the funding of the PEBB Medicare supplement this session.
The Ask: Please call your Senator at 1-800-562-6000 and ask them to move SB 6340 off the Senate floor by the February 14th deadline and support an increase in the PEBB Medicare supplement in the budget.
WA State Legislative Bill Summary
Here is a link to the list of bills currently of focus to RPEC: http://www.rpecwa.org/bill-summary-2-9-2018/
Congress Delivers Budget Deal Overnight
From the Alliance for Retired Americans – After a short-lived shutdown, the federal government reopened Friday with a six-week stopgap spending bill. The package, signed into law around 8:45 AM Friday by the President, will extend government funding through March 23, suspend the debt limit until March 2019, provide an additional $300 billion for defense and domestic programs over two years. It also impacted funding for Medicare and Social Security.
The deal closes the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors in 2019, a year earlier than expected.
“The money for prescription drugs will provide a welcome bit of relief for more than 5 million older and disabled Americans and save taxpayers money,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance.
The package restores eight tax breaks known as “Medicare extenders,” including eliminating the Medicare funding cap on physical therapy, a long-sought health policy priority.
The deal extends a number of special payment bonuses for different Medicare providers, many of which were once intended to be temporary, but get regularly continued. Those include extra payments for rural hospitals, a higher payment rate for ambulances, and increased payment rates to certain Medicare doctors. It preserves loan repayment programs for health providers who choose to work in underserved areas.
The package expands pilot programs meant to test the value of in-home care for some Medicare patients. It would allow Medicare providers who are part of an accountable care association to offer patients cash bonuses as incentives for healthy behaviors.
Funding for the Social Security Administration
There is an agreement in place to give the Social Security Administration (SSA) a bump in funding in the omnibus, which will come later, so that seniors and other beneficiaries get better services from regional offices.