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RPEC Weekly ACTION Newsletter – October 20, 2017

In this Edition:

  • SCPP Votes to Advance COLA Option for Plan 1 Members
  • Bipartisan Bill to Stabilize ACA Has 24 Co-Sponsors
  • Senate Passes Budget Plan
  • Highlights from Senior Lobby Fall Conference
  • Annual Medicare Enrollment Starts October 15, Ends December 7
  • Open Enrollment for Washington State HealthCare.gov (ACA) for Individual Health Care Policies

 

SCPP Votes to Advance COLA Option for Plan 1 Members

The Select Committee on Pension Policy (SCPP) Executive Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday, to bring forth a fiscal note and draft bill of Option B (below). The two requests brought by the Retired Public Employees Council of Washington were under consideration by the SCPP.

Option A: A one-time, 3 percent COLA for those retired ten years or longer. Policymakers may pursue this option if they want to increase purchasing power for targeted beneficiaries. Those who have been retired for ten years have likely lost more purchasing power than those who have been retired for fewer years. On average, those retired for ten years or longer have 75 percent of the purchasing power they had at the time of their retirement. Those retired within the last ten years have 92 percent of original purchasing power.

Option B: A one-time, 3 percent COLA on up to $25,000 of annual benefit. Policymakers may pursue this option if they want to increase purchasing power and protect benefit adequacy. This option would provide a COLA up to the approximate average annual benefit of Plans 1 members. The benefit cap provides, at most, a $750 annual benefit increase to recipients. Retirees who receive an annual benefit of $25,000 or less will receive a full 3 percent COLA. Retirees who receive an annual benefit above $25,000 will receive a full 3 percent COLA on the first $25,000 of annual benefit only. This will provide a total COLA of less than 3 percent for these members. For example, a retiree with a $40,000 annual benefit would receive a 1.875 percent COLA.

 

Bipartisan Bill to Stabilize ACA Has 24 Co-Sponsors

From The Hill – The bipartisan deal to stabilize ACA’s markets, proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., has 24 co-sponsors. Twelve Republicans and 12 Democrats signed on to the bill, which would continue ACA’s insurer subsidies for two years and give states more flexibility to waive ACA rules.

“This is a first step. Improve it and pass it sooner rather than later,” Alexander said on the Senate floor.

But Republicans likely wouldn’t put the bill on the floor of the Senate without the expressed approval from President Trump, who has sent mixed messages.

Responding to that criticism Thursday, Alexander said he was open to adding any language the White House might have to strengthen a provision already in the bill to ensure that insurers can’t keep the payments for themselves, but rather have to pass savings on to consumers in the form of rebates or another mechanism.

The proposal also likely faces an uphill battle in the House.

It received a cold reception from Speaker Paul Ryan, who said the Senate should instead focus on repealing ACA.

But Alexander noted that the repeal bill passed by the House earlier in the year funded the insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, for two years.

“Every Republican in the House of Representatives who voted to repeal and replace ACA this year voted for a provision that continued the cost-sharing payments for two years. Our bill does the same thing,” he said.

In a concession to Republicans, the bill would also grant states more flexibility to waive ACA rules and allow the sale of less comprehensive, cheaper “copper” plans.

 

Senate Passes Budget Plan

From USA Today – The Republican majority in the Senate approved a budget plan for 2018, clearing a key hurdle in their quest to pass a massive tax overhaul.

Approved 51-49 on Thursday night — Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joined Democrats in opposing it — the budget differs significantly from one passed by the House on Oct. 5, especially in the amount the national debt can be raised by tax cuts.

Each chamber must pass identical measures for them to have any effect. But even then, the budget’s real impact is not on how much the government will spend or borrow — it’s how much it will tax, because the measure included language that would prevent a tax bill from being filibustered by Democrats later this year or next year.

Over the next 10 years, the budget calls for $473 billion in cuts from Medicare and $1 trillion from Medicaid. They are part of $5 trillion in cuts mentioned overall, but most are not specified.

Over the course of two days, the Republican majority voted almost en bloc against amendments that included a requirement that no one making $250,000 or less would face a tax increase, to prevent tax cuts from increasing the deficit, to require a “score” on a tax bill’s impact from the Congressional Budget Office before a vote could be taken, and to prevent cuts to Medicare or Medicaid.

What happens now – Either the House must pass the Senate’s version, or both chambers must appoint a conference committee to develop a compromise that would have to be approved again in each chamber.

 

Highlights from the Senior Lobby Fall Conference 

Over 300 seniors and professionals in senior services gathered yesterday to address the significant concerns facing those in the Age Wage from long-term care to increasing prescription costs.

David Schumacher, Director of the WA office of Financial Management – Informed the audience that the current budgetary focus remains on K-12 education and mental health.  Unfortunately, despite a slight uptick in revenue, the state’s 82 year old tax system results in a revenue collection as a percent of the economy that has decreased from 6% to 4%.  In addition, Washington currently has the second most regressive tax system in the country.

David Mancuso, Director of Research and Data Analysis Division of WA DSHS – WA is the only state that has been able to establish a program to reduce costs for dual eligibles (Medicare $ Medicaid).  This program saved $67.5 million from July of 2013 thru December of 2015 while actually enhancing quality of life and keeping these seniors in their homes.  One of the ways has been to establish the Health Home Network that plugs social workers in with these vulnerable seniors to coordinate their care on a one-on-one basis. To find out more on the Health Home Network, go to: https://www.hca.wa.gov/billers-providers/programs-and-services/health-homes

Bill Moss, Assistant Secretary DSHS Aging and Long-term Support Administration – The $4 billion cuts to the state under the proposals to Repeal and Replace would have devastating consequences on this program for seniors.

  

Annual Medicare Enrollment Starts October 15, Ends December 7

Use the Plan Finder & review your coverage options at: https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx. You have the option to complete a general or personalized plan search. A personalized search may provide you with more accurate cost estimates and coverage information.

 

Open Enrollment for Washington State Health Exchange (ACA) for Individual Health Care Policies

For those not covered by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) – the federal government shortened the 2018 open enrollment period for Exchanges by several weeks. Open enrollment is Nov. 1, 2017 – Jan. 15, 2018. If you want coverage to start Jan. 1, 2018, you must enroll by Dec. 15. If you wait to enroll until Jan. 15, your coverage might not start until Feb. 1. Remember, premium and cost-sharing subsidies are only available through the Exchange. You can buy a plan through the Exchange even if you don’t qualify for premium and cost-sharing subsidies.

Go to: https://www.wahealthplanfinder.org

 

As you can see, we have much work to do in the weeks and months ahead to continue the betterment of your retirement security. Your continued support and political action is a necessity!

Your Voice for Retirement Security!

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