CWA Local 3607 – Update
From *Friday Alert
Feb 10, 2017
Administration Attacks Federal Employee Retirement and Health Benefits.
Last month as he discussed a government-wide hiring freeze, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that federal healthcare and retirement benefits are too generous. He made the statement as President Trump threw his support behind dramatic cuts to federal employees’ retirement and health benefits, calling the current system “unsustainable.”
The president has an eager partner in Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Chaffetz has announced plans to work on “reforms” such as moving new federal hires from a defined benefit pension plan to only a defined-contribution plan, such as the Thrift Savings Plan. The chairman spoke with Trump on Tuesday about these issues and he has also spoken to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) about his plans.
“Just as we fight for Social Security and Medicare, we will fight to protect a secure retirement for federal employees,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Republicans must stop singling out these employees who work hard on all of our behalf. We will be carefully watching for specific legislative proposals that aim to take away benefits that these employees have earned through years of negotiations.”
Republicans Considering Health Care Changes that Shift More Costs to Older Americans.
Trump is considering abolishing part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that keeps costs down for seniors and other changes that would reduce coverage. Draft documents show the Trump administration may loosen an Obamacare provision barring insurers from charging older customers more than three times as much as younger enrollees. He may allow health plans to expand this “age rating” ratio from 3:1 to 3.49:1; such a move would let insurers boost prices for older customers, who tend to be more expensive to cover. In a recent interview Trump further extended the timeline to expect an ACA replacement plan into 2018, breaking with Congressional Republicans.
Not all Republicans have pivoted towards this more pragmatic approach, as Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and the House Freedom Caucus said they will introduce their own replacement plan this week. Sanford and other more radical members have taken issue with delaying the repeal into 2018, when many members of Congress would have more immediate election concerns.
“The reason Republicans are having such a hard time repealing the ACA is that it works,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Reforming the age rating and protecting pre-existing conditions has made a tremendous difference and walking that back will not be easy.”
As the public has become more vocal about the life saving benefits of Obamacare, some Republicans have softened their rhetoric. The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is now calling for Congress to “repair it so that nobody else is hurt.” Alexander’s message underscores the disruptive nature of repealing a law that has helped over 20 million Americans gain health insurance and is increasingly popular as it comes to be understood more fully.
“Repair is a less partisan but no less action-oriented phrase that Americans overwhelmingly embrace” compared to repeal, Republican strategist Frank Luntz told lawmakers recently at the Republican retreat in Philadelphia.
Meeting with PBGC Officials Focuses on Early Warnings, Funding to Insure Pensions
On Tuesday President Roach, Mr. Fiesta, and Alliance Legislative Representative Eva Dominguez met with top leaders of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), an independent agency that insures workers’ and retirees’ private sector defined benefit plans. They discussed the early warning program for defined benefit plans and efforts to identify and correct problems with single employer plans. They also discussed the need for funding multi-employer plans.
“If the government can build a $15 billion wall on the Mexican border, we should be able to fund the government insurance program that protects our pensions,” said President Roach.
Court’s Ruling makes it Harder to Roll Back Fiduciary Rule
A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday upheld an Obama-era rule designed to avoid conflicts of interest when brokers give retirement advice, in a possible setback for President Trump’s efforts to scale back government regulation. The ruling makes it harder to give financial advice that benefits the broker at the expense of clients.
The Labor Department’s “fiduciary” rule requires brokers to put their clients’ best interests first when advising them about individual retirement accounts or 401(k) retirement plans.
For a printable or pdf version of this document, click here.
For the Alliance’s Spanish language page, which includes last week’s Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.retiredamericans.org/en-espanol
Caregivers Need Care Too.
Are you providing care, either at home or long distance, for a spouse, elderly parent, or other family member? It’s important to know where to find the assistance you may need. One excellent resource is the Family Caregiver Alliance, whose website features state-by-state lists of caregiver support programs, including training, counseling, legal, and respite services. Several webinars for family caregivers are available at no charge, and you can sign up for free newsletters. These programs and services are designed for you and the loved one you care for – so be sure to take advantage of support that can benefit you both.
Important information about your Health Insurance….
If you have Medicare and AT&T/Bellsouth Retirees insurance, please be advised that once you reach the age of 65, you will no longer be able to use AT&T/Bellsouth insurance as a secondary provider. Please call the AT&T Benefits center to confirm that you will be transitioned to ‘Aon Retiree Health Exchange’. The time frame for the transition will depend on when you retired from the company, which part of the company you worked for and the Union contract you had. That number is 1-877-722-0020.
Need a place to go, make it your own, be active and productive? We have what you want. Local 3607 is starting a Retirees Chapter so you can hang out here, get together with friends and former co-workers and stay active in the Solidarity process, process. Give us a call if you’re interested in joining the group @ 336.230.1211