Senator Elizabeth Warren Opposes Chained CPI

Warren Opposes Chained CPI

MARCH 1, 2013:  On the day when federal sequestration took effect and with a major retiree healthcare reform bill now pending on Beacon Hill, Association officials wrapped up the week by participating in two important forums: A conference call with Massachusetts’ Senior Senator and participating in the AFL-CIO’s Leadership Conference.

Today, Association official Bill Rehrey participated in a conference call with US Senator Elizabeth Warren. Among her committee assignments, the first term Senator has been appointed to the Special Committee on Aging.  As a member of this committee, Senator Warren invited the Association to participate in the conference call to discuss retirement issues with her.

Just this week, the committee held its first public hearing for 2013, which focused on Medicare. With this backdrop, the discussion today centered on this federal health insurance program.

“Senator Warren made it clear to us that benefit cuts were not the answer to the rising healthcare costs being faced by Medicare and the health insurance industry in general,” according to Rehrey. “Briefly, Senator Warren proposed that Medicare sustainability can be addressed, in part, by better research that helps to develop effective  ways to treat illnesses early, thereby reducing the program’s overall cost.

“When given the opportunity, I asked Senator Warren about her position on the Chained CPI, which we oppose.”  As our members know, from reading the March Voice, the Chained CPI would reduce the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) being paid by Social Security. It is not only a hotly contested issue at the federal level, but also, as pointed out in the Voice article, has potentially negative ramifications when it comes to COLAs being paid by the state, teachers and local retirement systems.

“Senator Warren emphatically stated that she opposed the Chained CPI, “ continues Rehrey. “According to the Senator, we must protect the basic benefit levels under Social Security, including its COLA.

“We applaud Senator Warren for her stance and commitment against any reduction in Social Security COLAs. And, we wish her well in this fight.”

AFL-CIO Backs Retiree Protections

For nearly a year we have been reporting on our Association’s role in the negotiations and debate surrounding Retiree Healthcare Reform. Our Association’s Shawn Duhamel represented all public retirees on last year’s Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare.

Since last April, Shawn has been working directly with Andrew Powell of the AFT-Massachusetts to ensure that both retirees and active employees are treated fairly in whatever reform comes to pass this year. As members know, Governor Patrick recently filed H59, which is his Healthcare Reform proposal based on the Commission’s report.

Today, Duhamel and Powell joined the AFL-CIO’s Legislative Director Tim Sullivan and Professional Firefighters President Ed Kelly in addressing over 150 labor leaders. The four explained labor’s position on healthcare reform, outlined the problems we face, how the proposal came to be and what changes may come about.

Duhamel and Powell also addressed potential inequities to current employees that may have been overlooked by the Commission’s report and subsequent bill. Union leaders and Association officials have been hearing from scores of active employees who may fall through the cracks when it comes to the bill’s “hold harmless” clause, particularly when it comes to protecting those workers nearing retirement.

“Healthcare reform continues to be the overriding issue that will dominate the first half of this year. This is a very important topic for our retirees and the active employees who might be directly impacted by the reforms,” explained Duhamel. “I am honored to have addressed the AFL-CIO Conference. Labor has been there with us every step of the way since this fight began. This fight is far from over, we still have a lot of work to do.”

“Labor joined us in insisting that certain key protections for current retirees be included in the report and in H59. This includes insurance for all survivors, holding current retirees harmless and stopping local cost shifting,” said Association President Ralph White. “We stand with labor to make sure that current employees are treated fairly and that no one near retirement has the rug pulled out from under them. Toward that end, it is very important that we keep working together as one team.”