Electronic copies  of our newsletters are available from the links to the left. Our newsletters are published monthly, except for July and August.

NEWS:

NARFE Headquarters, December 2, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“I testified this week before the House Subcommittee on Government Operations about the recent significant increases in Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) premiums. I expressed NARFE’s outrage over the increases and shared with the subcommittee some of the heartbreaking messages we received from fellow NARFE members. NARFE proposed a number of policy reforms, and is looking forward to working with Congress to create a more transparent and stable program.”

Medicare Hold Harmless Bill Introduced. Take Action!

On December 2, legislation was introduced to prevent a disproportionately large increase in the 2017 Medicare Part B premiums for those not held harmless. H.R. 6428 was introduced in the House by Rep. Dina Titus, D-NV, and would limit premium increases for individuals whose premiums are not paid directly from a Social Security benefit.

Under the legislation, Part B premium increases would be limited to $4 for those who are not held harmless and not subject to higher premiums due to higher incomes (who are subject to a 10 percent increase, as previously announced). For those paying the standard premium, their premiums would rise from $121.80 per month to $125.80. The $4 increase is the same as the average increase in Medicare Part B premiums for those held harmless.

H.R. 6428 was introduced with 34 original cosponsors, a number we seek to grow. Please take a moment to call your members of Congress and ask for their support. You can call the U.S. Capitol using NARFE’s toll-free number 1-866-220-0044, and ask to be connected to your representative. Now is the time to take action and make your voice heard!

Long Term Care Congressional Hearing

On November 30, NARFE President Richard G. Thissen testified before the House Subcommittee on Government Operations about the recent premium increases in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). Thissen joined representatives from the John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other insurance policy experts to detail the reasons behind the steep premium increases and to propose policy fixes to the program.

In his testimony, Thissen stated: “It is incumbent on this subcommittee to support real reforms that provide Americans with affordable, reliable options. Enrollees should not bear the risk when insurance companies and actuaries make mistakes, and they should have options available to plan for their future needs.” NARFE proposed a number of policy options to ensure price stability and affordability and will continue to hold Congress and OPM accountable.

During the hearing, several lawmakers questioned representatives from John Hancock and OPM and expressed outrage over the increases. Ranking member Gerald E. Connolly, D-VA, vowed to bring OPM representatives back before the committee to provide definitive plans to fix the program. NARFE looks forward to working with stakeholders and lawmakers to bring premium stability to FLTCIP.

A video recording of the hearing, along with the written testimony of the witnesses, is available here. Be sure to read NARFE’s written testimony on the hearing.

2017 Alternative Plan for Locality Pay

On November 29, President Obama submitted an alternative locality pay plan for the January 2017 pay adjustments. The submitted plan adheres to the President’s proposed 1.6 percent pay increase for 2017, and incorporates an average 0.6 percent locality pay increase on top of the 1.0 percent across-the-board base pay increase.

The Office of Personnel Management will post the actual 2017 pay tables in late December, following the President’s executive order on pay adjustments. The pay adjustments will go into effect during the first pay period of the new year.

NARFE Tops $12 Million Alzheimer’s Fundraising Goal

NARFE members now have raised more than $12 million in cumulative donations for the NARFE-Alzheimer’s Research Fund, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association. This is an incredible accomplishment and a testament to NARFE members’ dedication to end this horrible disease. A new goal was set during the August 2016 NARFE National Convention to reach a cumulative total of $13 million in 2018. Thank you to all those who have donated. Together, we can find a cure.

For those interested, The Hill this week gathered policymakers, health officials, patient advocates and medical experts for “Race Against Time: Overcoming Alzheimer’s by 2025,” a gathering to discuss America’s Alzheimer’s goals. You can watch the gathering and listen to the featured speakers by going here.

Open Season Reminder

The 2016 Federal Benefits Open Season is fast approaching its December 12 deadline. Open Season is an opportunity for federal employees to enroll in or make changes within the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) and the Federal Flexible Spending Account (FSA) program. Federal retirees and survivor annuitants can change their FEHBP health care plans as well as enroll in or change a FEDVIP plan during Open Season. For more information or to explore options, please visit OPM’s website.

Register Now for the 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference!

Registration is now open for the 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference! Are you a newly appointed Congressional District Leader or chapter legislative officer and not sure how to fulfill this role? Are you a veteran legislative chair trying to get more of your members involved in grass-roots advocacy? Are you a NARFE member interested in learning more about NARFE’s legislative priorities and how you can take action? Then the Legislative Training Conference is for you!

The 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference will be held Sunday, March 12, through Wednesday, March 15, in Alexandria, VA. It includes training, national speakers and the opportunity to network with fellow NARFE grass-roots activists. The conference culminates in a visit to Capitol Hill, where you will use your new skills in meetings with your legislators. The full agenda, including speakers, will be made available in January, after the new Congress is sworn in. For more information on the conference, including hotel information and fees, or to register for the conference, visit the NARFE website here.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

Return to December 2, 2016

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NARFE Headquarters, November 18, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“With the election season over, NARFE looks forward to working with the new administration as we continue to advocate on behalf of federal employees and annuitants, their spouses and survivors. Legislators returned to Capitol Hill this week for the lame duck session that will bring a close to the 114th Congress. We are closely monitoring negotiations on spending measures to keep the government running past December 9 and other last-minute legislation.”

2017 Medicare Part B Premiums and the ‘Hold Harmless’ Provision

 Medicare Part B premiums for 2017 were announced late last week. Seventy percent of beneficiaries will be “held harmless,” meaning their Part B premium increase will be limited to the cost-of-living increase in their Social Security benefit, for an average of $4 per month – from $104.90 to $109. The remaining 30 percent of Part B beneficiaries, who are not held harmless, will see their premiums rise from $121.80 per month to $134 – or an average of 10 percent. This higher figure results from the cost-shifting effect of the hold harmless clause in Social Security law.

Those not held harmless include hundreds of thousands of federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) who do not receive Social Security benefits and, instead, pay their Medicare Part B premiums from their federal annuities. The premium increase for those not held harmless could have been higher, but it was mitigated administratively by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

NARFE strongly urges all members to send an updated action letter to their members of Congress, alerting them to this situation, which unfairly penalizes those who do not pay their Medicare premiums from a Social Security benefit, and asking them to take action to fix it. The updated action letter is available here. Remember, silence equals acceptance!

 NARFE’s issue brief on the effect of the hold harmless provision on federal retirees is available here.

Open Season Begins

The 2016 Federal Benefits Open Season began Monday, November 14, and will run through Monday, December 12. This is an opportunity for federal employees to enroll in or make changes within the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) and the Federal Flexible Spending Account (FSA) program. Federal retirees and survivor annuitants can change their FEHBP health care plans as well as enroll in or change a FEDVIP plan during Open Season.

This week, the NARFE Federal Benefits Institute hosted a webinar, “The Alphabet Soup of Health Plans,” presented by federal benefits expert Tammy Flanagan, on factors members should consider as they make their Open Season decisions. To view this webinar online, click here. If you have additional questions, contact NARFE’s Federal Benefits Service Department at fedbenefits@narfe.org or 703-838-7760.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently released an upgraded plan comparison tool to help enrollees evaluate plan options. More information on Open Season is available on the OPM website; click here.

 Oversight Committee Holds Hearing on Federal Cybersecurity

Also this week, the House Subcommittee on Information Technology held a hearing titled “Federal Cybersecurity After the OPM Data Breach: Have Agencies Learned Their Lesson?” At the November 16 hearing, chief information officers from NASA, the Department of Agriculture and the Social Security Administration detailed how their agencies are complying with the Federal Information Security Management Act and the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act.

OPM Creates More Opportunities for Feds to Support Community Charities

On October 13, President Obama issued an Executive Order making two changes to the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) program, the largest workplace-giving program in the world. Starting in September 2017, federal retirees will be able to donate to the CFC through monthly payments from their annuities. Additionally, the hours federal employees spend volunteering with charitable organizations will count toward CFC goals.

Register Now for the 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference!

Registration is now open for the 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference! Are you a newly appointed Congressional District Leader or chapter legislative officer and not sure how to fulfill this role? Are you a veteran legislative chair trying to get more of your members involved in grass-roots advocacy? Are you a NARFE member interested in learning more about NARFE’s legislative priorities and how you can take action? Then the Legislative Training Conference is for you!

The 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference will be held Sunday, March 12, through Wednesday, March 15, in Alexandria, VA. It includes training, national speakers and the opportunity to network with fellow NARFE grass-roots activists. The conference culminates in a visit to Capitol Hill, where you will use your new skills in meetings with your legislators. The full agenda, including speakers, will be made available in January, after the new Congress is sworn in. For more information on the conference, including hotel information and fees, or to register for the conference, visit the NARFE website here.

No Legislative Hotline November 25

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no Hotline next week. NARFE Headquarters will be closed November 24-25. The Hotline will return to its regular schedule on Friday, December 2.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the Legislative Action Center to easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues. Members also can track NARFE-related bills and votes and see how their legislators voted.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

Return to November 18, 2016

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NARFE Headquarters, October 7, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

Even though Congress is in recess until after the November elections, NARFE is working on our top legislative priorities. We have teamed up with our coalition partners to take a proactive approach to stave off the potential Medicare Part B premium increases for those not held harmless, including CSRS annuitants. Read more below."

NARFE Joins Coalition Partners Urging Congress to Address Unfair 2017 Medicare Part B Premiums

Last week, NARFE signed on to a letter expressing its deep concern with the rising costs of Medicare Part B premiums for some beneficiaries. NARFE joined 74 other organizations in outlining the hardships that nearly 30 percent of beneficiaries face when there is a low or no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security benefits. The groups urged Congress to protect those individuals from the unintended consequences resulting from the “hold harmless” provision.

A small 2017 COLA would trigger the hold harmless provision in the Social Security Act, which limits the dollar increase in Medicare Part B premium to the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security benefit. This would place the full burden of Medicare Part B premium increases on a single subsection of Medicare beneficiaries – those who don’t pay their premiums from Social Security benefits. Assuming a 0.2 percent COLA, 2017 Part B premiums could rise to $149 per month, a substantial increase from the current $121.80 per month, for those who are not held harmless, including Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuitants. The letter was sent to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Finance, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Please send an action letter to your members of Congress, alerting them to this situation and asking them to prevent a steep increase in your Medicare premiums simply because you are not held harmless. NARFE’s issue brief on the topic, which can be used in your meetings with members of Congress and their staff, was recently updated and is available here.

Register Now for the 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference!

Registration is now open for the 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference! Are you a newly appointed Congressional District Liaison or chapter legislative officer and not sure how to fulfill this role? Are you a veteran legislative chair trying to get more of your members involved in grass-roots advocacy? Are you a NARFE member interested in learning more about NARFE’s legislative priorities and how you can take action? Then the Legislative Training Conference is for you!

The 2017 NARFE Legislative Training Conference will be held Sunday, March 12, through Wednesday, March 15, in Alexandria, VA. It includes training, national speakers and the opportunity to network with fellow NARFE grass-roots activists. The conference culminates in a visit to Capitol Hill, where you will use your new skills in meetings with your legislators. The full agenda, including speakers, will be made available in January, after the new Congress is sworn in. For more information on the conference, including hotel information and fees, or to register for the conference, visit the NARFE website here.

Hotline on an As-Needed Basis Until November 14

Due to the congressional recess, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until November 14.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the Legislative Action Center to easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues. Members also can track NARFE-related bills and votes and see how their legislators voted.

Return to October 7, 2016

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