Association Meets With Federal Officials

Association Meets With Federal Officials
Shawn Duhamel Addresses NCPERS Healthcare Forum

Social Security & Medicare Central Issues

FEBRUARY 1, 2014: This past week Association President Frank Valeri and Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel met with members of the Massachusetts’ Congressional Delegation in Washington, DC.

Valeri and Duhamel were in the nation’s capital to attend the annual legislative conference of the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), to which the Association belongs. They met with the offices of all nine members of Congress, as well as Senior Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Time was also spent with US Representative Richard Neal, James McGovern and Katherine Clark. As ranking members of Congress, Neal and McGovern (along with Reps. Capuano and Lynch) hold senior leadership positions within the federal government.

Clark, who was just elected to fill the vacant 5th Congressional seat, is a longtime Association friend and ally from her time in the state legislature. As a state senator, Clark chaired the Joint Committee on Public Service during the passage of major healthcare and pension reform laws in 2011.

Valeri and Duhamel were accompanied on Capitol Hill by former Mass. state rep. and Teachers’ Retirement System chief Tom Lussier. As the Association’s eyes and ears in Washington, Lussier heads a firm that specializes in pension, Social Security and healthcare issues.

“Shawn and I used our time in Washington to meet with senior members of our Congressional delegation and key staff people to seek guidance on how we might be able to get movement on the Social Security WEP and GPO issues. Collectively, a lot of good work has been done in the past to bring attention to these issues and keep them on the Congressional radar screen,” said Valeri. “Unfortunately, the bills continue to be victims of circumstance within a system that is often gridlocked.

“We’re looking at how we might approach things going forward, trying to find a way to shake a bill loose that will provide much needed relief to our members. It is not going to be easy, but we have to find a new way to tackle an old problem.”

Conference Participants

NCPERS’ two-day conference began with a full discussion and analysis of a variety of public pension and Social Security issues. One red-hot topic was the ongoing pension saga in Detroit and Illinois, where a variety of federal and state legal challenges have been filed to contest the reduction of benefits for retirees.

On Tuesday the focus turned exclusively to healthcare, with topics such as Medicare, the Accountable Care Act (Obamacare) and state healthcare reform dominating the agenda. A wide variety of top-level insurance and healthcare experts were on hand making informative presentations and answering audience questions.

Duhamel took part in the Tuesday’s program, presenting a report on public retiree healthcare reform in Massachusetts.

“I have to thank Andrew Powell of AFT Mass. for helping me pull together the presentation. It was very well received and gave our colleagues from around the country valuable information to put to use back home,” explained Duhamel. “As has been the case with most aspects of our healthcare system, Massachusetts is really ahead of the curve in terms of these reforms. Other states look to us for guidance on what we’ve learned here.”

“This was my first trip to Washington as Association President and very first NCPERS conference in general. From what I learned this week, we’re fortunate to have such a great national network to rely upon and work with,” added Valeri. “We learned a lot this week and will be putting that information to use for our members.”