THANK YOU for the outpouring of action on this issue! Over 300 Washingtonians attended the June 30 meeting of the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) and over 40 gave moving public comments urging it to keep the Traditional Medicare option and halt conversion to 100% Medicare Advantage plans. In a short amount of time, the coalition formed by the Retired Public Employee Council (RPEC) was able to organize and apply pressure on the WA Health Care Authority and the PEBB to get stakeholder engagement on the proposal and to delay a decision until at least January 2022.
At its meeting on Thursday, June 30, the PEB Board passed resolution 2022-16, to postpone consideration of the elimination of the UMP Classic Medicare plan (proposal 2022-12) until no sooner than January 2024. Resolution 2022-16 specifically called out the need for engagement of stakeholders who would be affected by the proposal to discontinue the UMP Classic Medicare plan.
This is an important win — the first step in a year-long process to protect Traditional Medicare as an option for Washington state retirees. This win also contributes to the broader campaigns to protect traditional Medicare from being taken over by private, for-profit interests as we continue to build the movement for expanded and improved Medicare for All.
We thank all of the organizations in the coalition that RPEC pulled together on short notice to daylight the issue and rally retirees to speak out: American Federation of Teachers WA, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, Washington Community Action Network, WA Education Association Retirees, Washington Federation of State Employees, Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans, our own HCHR coalition and more.
Our State’s Public Employee’s Benefits Board Threatens Traditional Medicare Option for Retirees
We have some corrections about tomorrow’s PEBB meeting. PEBB has changed the time for public comment.
WHAT YOU CAN DO — The Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB) is holding a meeting this Thursday, June 30, with a public comment period from 11:30 am -1:30 pm. RPEC is encouraging people to speak against the proposal to privatize all Medicare options. Most helpful: comments from public retirees currently in the Medicare UMP plan, active public workers who want that option when they are eligible, or people who have had bad experiences with Medicare Advantage plans. Be sure to practice so you can keep to 2 minutes MAX. There isn’t a registration process. Find the Zoom ink here under “Meeting Materials” for June 30. We recommend joining the Zoom call by 11:25 am. PEBB seems to be new to public comment and so we might need to be patient.
BACKGROUND — The PEBB announced June 9 that at its June 30 meeting it would vote to terminate the Uniform Medical Plan Classic Medicare option for public service employees and retirees, which would leave them with only privatized Medicare Advantage options as of January 2023.
This decision was taken without consultation or consent of public employees and retirees. In response, HCHR member Retired Public Employees Council (RPEC) has led the pushback, demanding a delay of at least 6 months on this decision and a “rigorous community engagement process to include listening sessions with retired state employees who are currently enrolled in UMP Classic.” RPEC reached out to allies for support.
HCHR has sent letters to the PEBB and Governor Inslee advocating the same delay and community engagement. As of today, similar letters have been sent by the WA Education Association Retired and by HCHR members American Federation of Teachers WA, WA State Alliance for Retired Americans, and Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action.
The loss of a traditional Medicare option for public retirees would be serious enough for those directly affected. But it would also contribute to the larger threat of Medicare privatization by Medicare Advantage plans and the ACO REACH program scheduled to launch in 2023. At risk is the very possibility of winning improved and expanded Medicare for All to achieve universal, affordable, and equitable health care for all in our nation.
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