NRLN WASHINGTON D.C. FLY-IN – February 24-25, 2020
Four NCRO Board Members/Leaders attended the February 24th -25th NRLN Annual Leadership Conference. The general focus of the lobbying efforts in Washington, DC during the NRLN Annual Leadership Conference were opposing Medicare privatization, legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and protecting retirees’ pensions. Two specific issues that were the focus of the NCRO participants were pension overpayment legislation and alerting our representatives to the merger of FCA and PSA and asking them to assist us if necessary to ensure that all pensions, including salaried pension, be transferred to the new company.
On day one, in the morning session, the NRLN Board of Directors met in an open to all attendees meeting to discuss current NRLN issues and to plan for the remainder of 2020. In the afternoon session attendees were provided briefings on the lobbying issues and a guest speaker from the Kaiser Foundation who has considerable expertise on Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drugs presented to the group. Alyson Parker, NRLN Executive Director, reported that two pension protection issues advocated by the NRLN and the NCRO could be included in a bill that is expected to be introduced this year.
Ed Beltram, NRLN Vice President – Communications, briefed the attendees on talking points on three issues:
- Reduce Prescription Drug Prices – Congress should remove the prohibition on Medicare negotiating drug prices and replace it with a competitive bidding model used by businesses. Legislation is needed to end pay-for-delay and other brand name drug makers’ tactics that obstruct generic drugs from coming to market. Americans should be allowed to import safe and less expensive drugs from Canada. We lobbied for bills that would achieve these objectives.
- Pension De-risking – Many employers are converting their pension plans to third-party insurance company annuities. The steady decline in traditional defined-benefit pension plans through “de-risking” will continue, according to the findings of a recent survey by MetLife. When “de-risking” occurs with the purchase of an insurance annuity pension plan participants lose the protection of PBGC and ERISA. NRLN’s proposals for legislation would protect pension plan participants.
- Mergers, Acquisition and Spin-offs – The NRLN urged Congress to introduce and pass legislation to provide specific protections for pension plan participants when there are corporate mergers, acquisitions and spin-offs.
Guest Speaker – Tricia Neuman, Senior Vice President of the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Director of the Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy was the guest speaker. She explained the role of private plans in Medicare. Today 34% of the Medicare population is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Projections are for participation in Medicare Advantage plans will reach 50% by 2029.
She also discussed Prescription Drug Costs. Total retail prescription drug spending in the U.S. in 2005 was $205 billion, $234 billion in 2017 (latest data available) and is projected to reach $605 billion in 2026.
On day two, we convened on Capitol Hill to meet with our legislative representatives to advocate the issues that are important to retirees. The NCRO group met with representatives from Michigan, Ohio and Florida. Meetings were held with the staffs of Senators Peters, Stabenow, Rubio and Scott. Meetings were also held with the staffs of Reps. Stevens and Webster. Key discussions centered around pension issues that affect us…. specifically protecting pensions in mergers and acquisitions, pension de-risking and pension overpayments.
Jay Kuhnie along with Bill Kadereit, President NRLN and Alyson Parker, NRLN Executive Director met with legislative representatives for key Senate Finance Committee members to discuss the legislative language that has been developed to dramatically change ERISA law and institute significant protections for pensioners who might face a pension overpayment issue. Much progress is being made and all critical entities seem to be on board. We are hopeful that the new language will be included in a bill later this year.
NRLN WASHINGTON D.C. FLY-IN – SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2019
On September 23-24, 2019 seven NCRO members (Rich Brown, Peter Hollinshead, Dale Koch, Jay Kuhnie, Deb Morrissett, Dana Oliver and Ray Pasternak) participated in the NRLN fall fly-in to Washington D.C. to advocate for retiree/senior issues. The NCRO members had Congressional meetings with Senators, Congresspersons or their staffs from Florida, Michigan and Ohio. In addition, Jay Kuhnie met with Chris Allen (Senior Adviser to the Senate Committee on Finance) and Aliya Robinson (Senior Vice President, Retirement and Compensation Policy, ERIC – the ERISA Industry Committee). Jay, Dana and Deb also met with our Washington based attorneys. In total the NCRO participated in 13 meetings.
The NRLN Congressional discussion folder topics included:
- Traditional Medicare Should Have Access to Medicare Advantage Benefits
- Support for Bills to Reduce Prescription Drug Prices
- Support for Passage of Social Security 2100 Act
- House and Senate Report Cards
Although the NCRO handed out the NRLN discussion folder, the NCRO concentrated its efforts on the following:
- Protecting Retirees from Pension Plan Benefit Recoupment. (Limiting exposure to payback for pension calculation errors. The NCRO folder included proposed legislative amendment language.)
- Protecting Retirees in Pension Plan De-risking (Pension plan conversion to annuities or buyouts.)
- Protecting Retirees from Risks in Corporate Mergers, Acquisitions and Spin-offs. (Including proposed legislative amendments.)
In addition to Congressional meetings on the 24th, Monday the 23th included the following activities:
- The NRLN Board met in the Morning to review its 2019 financials, elect new Board Members and discuss the membership recruitment plan.
- In the afternoon attendees were briefed on the issues they would advocate for during their Congressional appointments. The Washington D.C. climate, NRLN finances and long-range planning, and NRLN outreach and grassroots activities were also discussed.