Why Mike Nodine Supports H.R. 756, Postal Service Reform Act of 2017

Like most of my fellow USPS employees, I want and am dedicated to keeping the USPS a successful and financially viable American Institution that provides the most cost-effective communication and universal service to all Americans, just as our Founding Fathers established and intended the Post Office to remain.

And like many of my fellow USPS employees, I was especially alarmed and troubled about the prospect of being forced into Medicare as a compromise provision of H.R. 756.

Also like some, I found it suspicious that all four Postal Unions would agree to these terms because it appeared to me as if they were selling us out. So I called President Dimondstein and was fortunate enough to be able to speak to him directly for a few minutes about this legislative measure.

The first important thing I learned is that if H.R. 756 does become law in its current form, we will NOT lose our Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plans. Medicare will only become our primary health insurance at age 65 and our FEHB insurance will become our secondary insurance coverage. In most cases we will be 100% covered for all medical expenses, including out of pocket costs and co-pays if we chose to keep our FEHB plan.

I confronted President Dimondstein with the question, “Won’t this cost USPS retirees more money on our tight fixed income retirement budgets? I added, “The NARFE has calculated it will cost each USPS retiree around $134 per month more of our lean fixed income retirement budgets” as my citation of facts for this challenge.

President Dimondstein explained the answer depends on how healthy you remain and how much or little healthcare you will require. He pointed out that only if you never need or receive any medical services, then it could cost you perhaps as much as $134 per month more if you keep an FEHB plan, assuming other factors don’t lower our secondary FEHB plan costs. Some of those factors that could lower our costs include postal workers being placed in a separate health insurance rate calculation group. Postal workers are overall a heathier than the rest of the federal employee pool so our rates should drop accordingly.

But the real world practical answer to my question about H. R. 756 increasing our health care costs at age 65 includes the fact that Medicare in conjunction with an FEHB plan will eliminate our out of pocket expenses. In other words, the more medical treatment you get, the more you save in out of pocket costs, copays and everything that is not fully covered by our current FEHB insurance plans. You probably know how fast those can add up for just routine medical visits. And consider that the older we get, the more likely we will have health issues that will require medical treatment as opposed to our younger years we enjoy at the peak of our health. And God forbid any of us suffer a catastrophic illness or accident without the combination of Medicare and an FEHB plan. On a fixed budget, unexpected and unpredictable medical costs can be financially devastating.

The second most important thing I learned is that approximately 80% of our APWU Retirees have already opted in to Medicare when they reached age 65.  80% is a significant percentage, a majority opinion that should not be ignored.

The third most important thing I learned is that many of the 20% who did not opt in during the seven month window to sign up for Medicare when you are about to reach age 65, regret not doing so and can’t afford to pay the higher penalty rates now for having failing to sign up during their seven month sign up window. These penalty rates would be waived by H. R. 756 for those who missed out on the Medicare and are regretting it now.

The fourth important thing I learned is the reason some 80% of our Membership opt in to Medicare and many of the some 20% who didn’t wish they had, is because it is not only a good deal, but combined with our Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plans, is probably the very best “over-insured” health insurance available to anyone in the USA, which makes it the best value combination by far. But you should ask the retirees you know to verify this is all true.

And the fifth and most important thing I learned is knowing all of this, I too will opt into Medicare as soon as I am eligible, no matter what the final outcome of H. R. 756 turns out to be. And the odds are over 4:1 that when given the choice, you will too.

President Dimondstein also pointed out that at this point in time, H. R. 756 is only a House Resolution. If it passes the House, it will still need to pass the Senate before it could ever reach President Trump and potentially be signed into law. As a House Resolution, it is still subject to be changed and the Senate version will be at least a little different. And if it gets that far, the final bill is also subject to changed from the House and Senate versions. If at any point H. R. 756 becomes detrimental, President Dimondstein will of course drop his support of it.

I had a few questions I asked President Dimondstein other Members had asked me. He said he wanted to create a Q&A guide for H. R. 756 that would hopefully answer the most common questions and concerns. He doesn’t have time to surf the web so I volunteered to gather as many questions as I can on social media and submit them to him in few days for his consideration for inclusion in the Q&A. The 21cpw.com forum and 21cpw Facebook group page are excellent gathering points for you to post your questions, concerns and discussion about H. R. 756 or any other postal topic. I will gather and pass on any questions and concerns posted there.

Unfortunately President Dimondstein’s time was limited so I was not able to pose the following scenario to get his assessment, opinion and comments:

Some of you remember that the USPS maxed out its $15 billion dollar borrowing limit from the US Treasury in 2012:

Most of you probably don’t follow the USPS financial reports very or keep up with the number of days of operating cash the USPS has on hand at any given time. It generally averages around 30 days of operating cash on hand, not a lot of padding to ride out an unexpected downturn, but enough to operate on. You can find our current liquid operating cash information on page 10 of this 2017 USPS projected budget link:
http://about.usps.com/who-we-are/financials/integrated-financial-plans/fy2017.pdf

You should notice that the USPS operating cash on hand graph is projected to crash and crash hard starting around August 2017.

Should the USPS run out of money to operate, we can only speculate what kind of radical knee-jerk emergency actions a Republican House, Republican Senate and President Trump would enact with the likes of Darryl Issa leading the charge. But I will go on record now by saying it is a safe bet that it won’t be very good for anyone except Wall Street because we will have no role or say in whatever decisions they make at that point.

I see and understand the need for our Postal Unions to attempt in good faith to be a part of, and contribute to, any viable resolutions to the USPS financial problems now by maintaining as much influence as possible on whatever preventative solutions can be found while we still can. In other words, H.R. 756 is the only deal on the table and may be our last chance to have any say whatsoever about how the looming USPS financial crisis will be resolved.

In light of these facts that you should fact check for yourself, H. R. 756 while arguably not a perfect solution, is a compromise that I can live because I’m going to opt into Medicare anyway as soon as I am eligible.

For these reasons I take back my initial comparison of H. R. 756 to our 2010 APWU “Watershed CBA” that gave back some $3.8 billion dollars in our wages and set us back decades in equal pay for equal work that our PSE’s and by extension our MHA’s, CCA’s and RCA’s now suffer. The 2010 Watershed CBA sold out our youth and our next generation of postal workers in exchange for a few gains for current employees. I do not believe that H. R. 756 sells out or retirees, and we strive to become retirees someday ourselves, for the benefit of those of us still working. I would not stand for it on principle alone if it did. Much less would I support a measure that will cut my own throat in a just a few more short years.

If I have overlooked something or you have facts to the contrary, please let me know. I’m not trying to change your mind or to stop any opposition to this legislation as much as I want to share my reasons for no longer supporting the opposition to it. As many of my friends and most of my adversaries know, I’m all in when it comes to most any righteous protest and I’m not afraid to speak my mind and criticize others for taking positions I disagree with, including and especially our own national Union officers.

Call me a sell out on H. R. 756 if you will, but show me something in it that I can agree to disagree about H. R. 756 first. Otherwise you will find me in the months to come outside the White House gates again, carrying a sign with the leaders of the informational picket protest demanding President Trump sign this legislation into law.

Again, please post your H. R. 756 questions and concerns to the 21st Century Postal Worker website(www.21cpw.com) or the 21cpw Facebook group so that I can pass them along to President Dimondstein to consider adding to the forthcoming H. R. 756 Q&A.

4 thoughts on “Why Mike Nodine Supports H.R. 756, Postal Service Reform Act of 2017

  1. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    APWU - Oakland Local #78
    Past or current office held, if any
    Business Agent/ Director of Organization
    Please clear the fog hovering The Vested Interest issue here, that nobody speaks of. We must know why, and then while its going on, what must we do to address that beast known as Vested Interest.
    Groups or Individuals harboring Vested Interest will commit murders to protect that Vested Interest. Crime Lords and the likes of, created for, and killed to protect.

  2. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    APWU - California Area Local
    Past or current office held, if any
    Currently Clerk Craft Craft Director
    Brother Mike,

    A few brief thoughts on the health care aspects of this bill, with more to come…

    These include the virtual downgrading of our overall health care (i.e. forcing into virtually complete Medicare coverage at the expense of our FEHB plans); an increase in overall individual health care costs (check out the costs for Parts B and D making the FEHB plan cost prohibitive for many); questionable conclusions relayed on our national’s website, such as that “80” percent of not just retirees, but ACTIVELY EMPLOYED Medicare eligible employees (as included making this a dubious calculation) are supposedly taking not just the free Part A, but the expensive Part B as well); and the final blow to our FEHB plans for those 65 plus as we know it, which is the force into Part D.

    Enough for now, but let me conclude with something worth pondering prior to jumping into complete Medicare coverage with mere lip service and fleeting goodbyes to our wonderful FEHB plans:

    Take a look at anyone enrolled in Medicare’s ID card, including those very recently enrolled, and notice the Medicare ID number, or as it calls it the “Medicare Claim Number,” which is on the member’s card. It is the Medicare recipient’s SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!!! Yes, there’s no hiding – it’s right there on the card!

    They say this is in the “process” of being “corrected,” but its been going on for years…

    This is the price we may have to pay for the waiting game; not only for the red tape to correct the glaring ID issue, but to be downgraded into “what everyone else gets age 65 and beyond,” without our postal worker benefits traditionally being better than many, and therefore having historically been a ray of light for less fortunate workers everywhere, to aspire to.

    It’s just a lack of inquiry into the complexities of these issues, and avoidance of the will to fight the impulsive and regressive forces in congress, that can dim this light.

  3. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    Michigan State Retiree Chapter, Flint MI Area Local Retiree Chapter
    Past or current office held, if any
    Retiree Advisor, MPWU State Retiree Chapter; Past Pres. MI State Retiree Chapter & Fmr. Central Region National Retiree Delegate. Past Pres. "Cradle of Labor" Flint MI Area Local
    Mike Nodine doesn’t speak for me, just as NALC Rolando doesn’t speak for me!
    He certainly “learned” a lot if this was only brief call to Dimondstein. It is the verbatim pitch I received in a phone call I received in less than 5 minutes after posting my initial questions over the Medicare Part D component caused alarm several days ago. Nodine obviously has delved into HR 756 in depth which is commendable. We all should thoroughly explore ALL the APWU pitched positives, AND the negatives of this “not a perfect” bill. I do agree that for most retirees reaching age 65, signing up for Medicare Part B as your primary coverage, and maintaining FEHB as secondary is a no-brainer. Yet the majority of inquiries of retirees I represent for over 20 years was; “Why should I take Medicare when I have good FEHB coverage?” In nearly every case it was to save having to pay the Medicare premium. What I call being penny wise and pound foolish.

    BUT! There are circumstances where our Sisters & Brothers being “forced” into Medicare are not appropriate. Veterans on VA benefits, for instance. I’m very uncomfortable being party to “forcing” anyone into any insurance coverage even if being sold that it’s for the greater good, ostensibly to bail out the USPS for a manufactured pre-funding mandate Congress foisted on us via the infamous PAEA. Then there’s the NARFE objection that this “postal only” plan throws our Sister federal employee community under the bus. Like NARFE, or not, they were part of our much touted “Grand Alliance”, were they not? Endorsing HR 756 comes off as a “hooray for me, screw you”. I bristle at the notion that we are “over insured”!! That’s a term former APWU Legislative/Political Dir., Myke Ried hit me with during the APWU national officer election campaign shortly after he “retired” from office back in 2012/13. “Over insured”, indeed! What the Hell does THAT mean? That I have little out of pocket because I pay a high dollar FEHB premium as my secondary coverage in addition to my primary coverage Medicare premium?! Let’s hear what APWU Health Plan Dir. Marcotte has to say about that! There are a lot of very astute questions being asked from the field that demand answers and complete transparency before we go all in on HR 756. From this retiree’s perspective, who retired at a helluval lower fixed annuity than Bro. Nodine will when he reaches his MRA, My initial concerns were and are; being moved into a Part D which has proven to be extremely controversial (donut hole), and at first blush HR 756 is designed to bail out the USPS on retiree’s backs. In no small part is my concern that this bill is introduced by arch enemy Rep. Chavetz R-UT. That’s NEVER be good for Union workers, postal Union workers! It’s like being in league with the devil! I want to be wrong on all my assumptions, but I think we’re on very thin ice until we get ALL the facts, not just the glowing terms and positives of the bill. It’s true that it has a long way to go, subject to amendment both in the republickin House and then republickin Senate before it gets to the republickin president if he’s not impeached first!

    Maybe Pres. Dimondstein SHOULD take the time to go on social media to see the bombshell effect of his announcement on the rollout of HR 756! As I’ve previously stated; I’m neither for nor opposed to HR 756. Before I take a firm position I want answers to my, and all the very thoughtful questions and concerns beeing posed from the rank & file, ESPECIALLY we already retired members! Too many questions, too few answers. Let the debate continue. (Would like to be a mouse in the corner at the PRC) 🙂

  4. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    APWU - Western Connecticut Area Local
    Past or current office held, if any
    Member
    Mike Nodine, will circulate your article and reassess my position as appropriate. Thank you brother for your dedication and perseverance. Also thank you to Brother Randy.

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