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, July 22, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“It was announced this week that premiums for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program will increase an average of 83 percent. This massive premium increase comes as a shock to the more than 274,000 federal employees and annuitants and their spouses enrolled in the program. They are now faced with difficult choices – pay substantially higher premiums; reduce coverage; or, in the worst case scenario, drop the coverage some have paid into for more than 14 years. I am stunned at the extent of the increase and angry that this type of financial pressure is being placed on federal employees and retirees. Read more about the issue below.”

Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) Premium Increases

This week, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that premiums in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) will increase by an average of 83 percent, beginning November 1. NARFE is stunned and angered at the increases and is calling for changes to be made in the program to avoid such increases in the future.

The increases follow the awarding of a new seven-year contract for FLTCIP to the John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company in May. NARFE is prohibited by law from participating in, or commenting on, contract proposals between the federal government -- in this case, OPM -- and private vendors. Even now, after the huge premium increases have been announced, there are no direct actions NARFE can take that would cancel or reduce the increases.

However, NARFE will be evaluating policy options to recommend to Congress that could provide greater predictability in premiums and greater accountability from the insurance company when its actuarial assumptions prove incorrect. If NARFE is invited to testify at any congressional hearings, it will voice the feelings of its members and ask Congress to take steps to keep such large premium increases from happening again.

NARFE has created a website to keep members informed on this situation. It can be accessed here. A letter can be sent to your legislators here.

Meet With Legislators During Extended Congressional Recess

With Congress in recess, NARFE urges its members to meet with their legislators while they are back in their home states and districts. NARFE members can participate in Augusts' “Grass-Roots Advocacy Month” by attending town hall meetings and community events or meeting individually with legislators. NARFE’s online Toolkits, particularly the “Legislative Activities at the Individual Level Toolkit,” provide all the information you need to participate in Grass-Roots Advocacy Month. The Toolkits can be found here.

This week, The Hill published an op-ed by NARFE President Richard G. Thissen on postal reform. Thissen urged members of Congress to reject the Postal Service Reform Act of 2016, H.R. 5714. NARFE members should follow President Thissen’s lead and contact their legislators about the bill. You can write your representatives opposing H.R. 5714 here, or use the content in the letter to discuss the issue with your representative during the August recess.

We know that when legislators hear from their constituents, they react. Now is the time to remind your elected officials that NARFE members pay attention. Hotline on an As-Needed Basis Until September 9

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 July 22, 2016

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NARFE Headquarters, July 8, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“Prior to the Independence Day holiday, NARFE submitted comments to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in opposition to a draft bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service, and I continued to express NARFE’s concerns in meetings this week with key members of Congress. I thank all the NARFE members who also weighed in on this issue through the process set by the Committee. NARFE is making its views known on all fronts. Read more below.”

NARFE Opposes House Draft Postal Reform Bill

On June 29, NARFE submitted comments to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee opposing a draft bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service. The committee requested public comments prior to the bill’s formal introduction, and we were informed many NARFE members submitted comments.

NARFE opposes the draft because it would force current postal retirees, their spouses and survivors to enroll in Medicare or forfeit the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) coverage that they earned as a benefit of years of employment. For those not already enrolled, this would cost an additional $121.80 per month (or more) in Medicare Part B premiums.

In the comments submitted, NARFE argued that it is unfair to remove an individual’s choice to enroll in Medicare and that this changes the bargain for postal employees after they’ve retired. NARFE has proposed, as a compromise, allowing for postal retirees automatically enrolled in Medicare coverage to opt out during a special opt-out period. NARFE also offered some other solutions to help fix the Postal Service’s financial problems without placing the burden on postal retirees. NARFE’s comments can be found here.

NARFE continues to meet with congressional offices to explain our opposition to the draft bill. When the bill is formally introduced, NARFE will have a template letter available for its members to send to their legislators.

NARFE Sends Letter Asking House to Oppose H.R. 4361 in Advance of Vote

On July 6, NARFE President Richard G. Thissen sent a letter to the House of Representatives opposing H.R. 4361, the misleadingly named Government Reform and Improvement Act. The bill passed the House July 7, on a mostly party-line vote of 241-181. The final vote can be found here.

NARFE believes the bill is a misguided and unnecessary attempt to limit due process rights and terminate federal employees. The bill would extend the federal employee probationary period, change the removal process for senior executives, and require additional and overly burdensome reporting on the use of union “official time.”

In NARFE’s letter, President Thissen explained that the federal government already has in place several tools to deal with poor performers, and that it is incumbent on federal agencies to ensure their managers use those tools when necessary. The letter can be read here.

 Appropriations Update: Employee Pay Raise Moves Forward, Provision Restoring USPS Service Standards Removed

On July 7, the House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. The bill remains silent on a federal employee pay raise, paving the way for a 1.6 percent pay increase, starting the first full pay period in January. When Congress is silent on a pay raise for federal employees, the President has the authority to set pay. A 1.6 percent pay raise was included in the President’s FY 2017 budget and would be the largest federal employees have received since 2010.

Unfortunately, the House removed an amendment to restore the pre-2012 service standards of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The amendment had been previously approved unanimously by the Appropriations Committee. Since July 1, 2012, the USPS has nearly eliminated overnight delivery of first class mail and periodicals, and delayed most other mail. The bill maintains six-day mail delivery, which has been approved in the appropriations process since 1983.

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.

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NARFE Headquarters, June 24, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“This week, NARFE applauded the announcement by the Department of Defense that it will begin offering the option of phased retirement to its employees. NARFE long has called on agencies to implement phased retirement, a policy that has been law for more than four years. Also this week, the Social Security Trustees Report alerted us that some federal employees may again face an unfair Medicare premium increase. Learn more about both below. ”

DOD Announces Phased Retirement Implementation

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 their retirement. It became law four years ago, but agencies have been slow to implement the program.

NARFE applauded the announcement from the government’s largest agency, but called it long overdue. NARFE also called on other agencies to embrace this innovative human resources tool.

NARFE’s press release on the announcement can be found here.

Social Security Trustees Report Released

The annual Social Security Trustees Report was released this week, finding little change overall in the finances of the Social Security Trust Fund. The Trustees predicted the Social Security Trust 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. The 2017 COLA will not be determined until October.

Federal annuitants receive the same COLA as Social Security beneficiaries. A small COLA, such as the 0.2 percent increase estimated by the Trustees, 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.

This repeats last year’s scenario when it was announced that there would be no COLA in 2016. NARFE was instrumental in obtaining a fix that kept the full 52 percent increase in Part B premiums from taking effect. Instead, premiums rose only approximately 15 percent.

This fix also would apply if there is a zero COLA for 2017. However, it would not apply if there is a small COLA for 2017. NARFE is beginning to reach out to members of Congress on this issue and will be looking for another legislative fix if, indeed, there is a very small COLA in 2017.

House in Recess, Legislative Hotline Pending for July 1

While the Senate is in session next week, the House is in recess until July 5. Consequently, the Hotline may not be published next week, July 1, unless there is legislative news to report.

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 June 24, 2016

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