Mandatory Medicare Part B and postal reform

If you want to get a federal retiree’s attention just say the words “Medicare Part B” and go silent. You have them.

If you want to put the typical nonpostal federal worker or retiree into a sleep-like trance, just start talking about “Postal Reform” until they tune you out. If you want to get the president’s attention, mention or tweet a favorable comment about a story — almost any story — in The Washington Post.

Part B covers doctors. Most Americans automatically get Part A — hospital coverage — based on their work histories. But Part B requires an annual premium that now runs about $1,600 for most people.

For federal-postal retirees, the upside of having Part B is that in most cases Medicare will pickup most uncovered costs whether they have a fee-for-service plan — like Blue Cross Blue Shield — or an HMO. That can keep out of pocket expenses very low.

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The downside of Part B for most is its very high (for many) premium for what amounts to duplicate coverage.

Currently people have a choice and it is one of the major things to consider each year during the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan open season. But what if there was no choice? What if you had to take, and pay the extra premiums, for Medicare? What would it do to your budget in retirement?

Last month a bipartisan postal reform bill was introduced in the Senate. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are backing it. They said it is necessary to put the U.S. Postal Service on a sound financial footing, and let it be more innovative and competitive in delivering goods.

The two primary unions representing postal workers — the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers — support the legislation but said they want to be sure that retirees are not forced to take Part B. They said bipartisan support is necessary to insure that a good bill becomes law this year

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees opposes the bill, saying it absolutely will force retirees to take Part B as part of a plan to save the postal service money on health care costs by shifting the burden to Medicare. NARFE said it would open the door for requiring all federal retirees, not just former postal workers, to buy Part B. NARFE is hosting a “Return To Sender” webinar April 30, featuring a Q & A about the dangers, as NARFE sees it, of this reform.

The APWU and the NALC mostly represent active duty postal clerks and letter carriers. Most of NARFE’s due-paying members are retired federal and postal workers.

Lurking in the background, perhaps just a bump or maybe a Titanic-like iceberg, is a task force authorized by President Donald Trump. He wants the task force to take a long, hard look at the way USPS operates, and what it does and does not do.

The group has 120 days from last week to come up with recommendations, especially in how USPS delivers packages and what it charges for making deliveries for private companies. Specifically, Amazon which is one of the president’s least favorite outfits. It is owned by Jeff Bezos who, in turns out, owns the “fake news” (according to the president) newspaper The Washington Post.

Stay tuned.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

From 1912 to 1952, the Olympic Games awarded 151 medals for original art inspired by athletic feats. These included paintings, music, architecture, sculpture and literature.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine