March 31, 2023: It is very hard to believe that today is the end of March. For what is normally the longest month of the year, time has flown by so far in 2023!
April represents the start of what will be a four-month sprint, before the August summer legislative recess. And in just four weeks’ time, the House of Representative will have finalized its version of the FY24 State Budget – in which we are making every effort to include a State and Teacher retiree COLA base increase.
Before we get to the House budget debate during the week of April 24th, quite a bit of activity will have filled our time.
Starting this coming week, on April 5, the state Group Insurance Commission’s Annual Open Enrollment will begin and run through Wednesday, May 3rd. If you receive your insurance benefits through the state GIC, this is your one annual opportunity to switch insurance carriers or enroll in the Retiree Dental Plan.
If you are a municipal retiree or a retired teacher and do not receive your insurance benefits from the GIC, then this open enrollment does not apply to you. At the local level, annual open enrollment periods vary depending on the community and health insurance plan in which you belong. Watch for news from the community from which you retired or from the insurance company in which you are enrolled.
Retirees and active public employees, who are insured under the GIC, should pay particularly close attention to the health insurance plans offered for the coming fiscal year (FY24, which begins on July 1, 2023). As we have been reporting since last fall, changes have been made to the some of the names of the plans that are available going forward. You should not assume that your plan will remain unchanged or be offered at the same price point.
In addition to the information sent by the state to GIC enrollees, we have gone to press early with the May edition of The Voice. It contains a wealth of information about all GIC plans, as well as an easy to navigate chart spelling out all the monthly costs.
I should note that if you are enrolled in UniCare’s OME plan, very few, if any, changes have been made to the plan. Regardless of where you might live, you can remain in the Optional Medicare Extension Plan, now called UniCare Medicare Extension (UME)..
Non-Medicare eligible retirees, who live outside of New England (but within the US) will now be enrolled in the Harvard Pilgrim Access America plan.
Also, please remember that the GIC will not hold in-person health fairs in 2023. The best option is to use the GIC’s online portal to access your benefit information and make necessary changes in your coverage. Click here to access the GIC’s online resources and for more information about Open Enrollment.
Remember if you have specific questions about your insurance coverage or have an insurance claims problem, we are here to help. While we cannot tell you which plan to enroll in, we can offer some general direction to help you figure things out.
In addition to the GIC’s Open Enrollment, April also kicks off our annual Public Retirees Political Action Committee (PAC) drive. As you might know, the Retirees PAC is the political arm of Mass Retirees. It is funded through voluntary donations from members.
In addition to supporting and endorsing candidates for state and local office here in Massachusetts, the PAC also plays a critical role in educating and informing both retirees and the public about the issues directly related to public retirement. For instance, issue-based ads, our area meetings, and Tele-Town Hall events are all paid for by the PAC.
It is important that I point out that our PAC is strictly for use here in Massachusetts. It is not a federal PAC and cannot be used to support federal candidates or make federal campaign contributions. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) heavily regulates all PACs, scrutinizing all receipts and expenditures.
While members’ donations to the PAC are entirely voluntary, I need to reinforce just how important the operation of the PAC is to our overall success. There is no avoiding the fact that all our member’s retirement benefits have been gained through the political process. This is why the decision was made by our founders way back in 1968 for Mass Retirees to be a politically active advocacy organization. Being politically involved is in our DNA and is an essential part of why we have been successful in representing the interests of public retirees for near 55 years.
The positions we take and the candidates we choose to support are strictly focused on the issues of direct relevance and importance to public retirement. We are not involved in issues outside the direct scope of our specific mission. Party affiliation or political ideology are not relevant points in our decision-making process.
Thankfully, the majority of our members understand the need for the Association to be politically engaged and generously choose to support the PAC. Over the past few years the average contribution has been roughly $25 – which goes a long way toward helping us to represent our members.
Yesterday, a PAC drive letter was sent to you from Frank Valeri, Tom Bonarrigo, and Nancy McGovern. If you would like to make a PAC contribution, you can do so by either clicking here for our secure online donation portal or by using the self-addressed envelope contained within the PAC mailing.
For those members choosing to participate in the PAC Drive, I want to thank you in advance for your support and help. As I mentioned above, the Public Retirees PAC plays a very important role in our overall mission.
Next week, I will have a full update and report on the status of the adoption of the additional 2% COLA among the 102 local retirement systems. I’ll also have an update on the ongoing work to increase the COLA base. Much progress was made in March, so I’ll have some very good news to share on April 7th.Watch the video report by clicking here to play.
With great appreciation,
Chief Executive Officer
Mass Retirees Association