Category Archives: Latest News

Latest News and Articles relevant to the APWU Retirees.

Retirement Planning ZOOM Seminar – November 21st

The Retiree’s Department: Retirement Planning Seminar on Zoom

Sunday, November 21, 2021
12:00PM-4:00PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)

SPECIAL NOTES:

  1. Participants must be an active APWU member or retiree dues paying APWU member.
  2. Participants cannot register with a USPS email address, i.e. @usps.gov.
  3. Each participant must register individually and not as a group.
  4. Participants should not attend this training on the Postal Service time clock.
  5. Click on the link(s) below to complete the registration form.

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUsduCgqTgiGNLcukO14XxhffYdyU9CfTcy

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Open Season 101 webinars and Virtual Benefits Fair

Open Season 101 webinars and Virtual Benefits Fair

Open Season is here! Postal Service retirees who have already elected to participate in a FEHB plan may change their health benefits or enroll in new plans starting Monday, November 8, 2021 through Monday, December 13, 2021.

USPS is offering a nationwide Virtual Benefits Fair with participating Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) carriers. The fair provides an opportunity to engage with healthcare provider booths, attend webinars, and download health plan materials from your personal computer or mobile device. In addition to the FEHB health plan carriers, representatives from the USPS Health Benefits Plan, Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP), Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, Flexible Spending Accounts, Medicare, Social Security Administration, Thrift Savings Plan, and various educational partners, will be in attendance.

Annuitants can participate in live event days to speak with experts on four dates:

  • November 15  from 1:00pm – 9:00pm EST
  • November 18  from 9:00am – 5:00pm EST
  • November 30  from 1:00pm – 9:00pm EST
  • December 3  from 11:00am – 7:00pm EST

Register at the Virtual Benefits Fair site or via Keeping Posted.
 
The Postal Service is also offering educational webinars on Zoom specifically for retirees throughout Open Season, during the following dates and times:

Date Topic Start Time Zoom Link Dial-In Options
11/14/2021 Open Season 101 2:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1604629113
Password: 325598
11/16/2021 Open Season 101 12:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1608905755
Password: 152509
11/29/2021 Open Season 101 12:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1608847302
Password: 490820
12/2/2021 Open Season 101 2:00pm EST Zoom Link Phone Number:
503-336-1236
or 952-229-5070
Meeting ID: 1612375953
Password: 169698

Keeping Posted has additional tools to help you prepare, including FAQs, informational videos, Medicare options, and a link to CHECKBOOK’S Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees. CHECKBOOK enables you to make side-by-side comparisons of FEHB plans, so that you can evaluate services and costs, including premiums, copays, and deductibles.

For more information, visit www.keepingposted.org or connect via Facebook.  

» CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Retirement and Medicare Webinar

 Retirement and Medicare Webinar

You’re invited to a retirement resources and Medicare 101 meeting
Friday, October 29 at 12 p.m. ET

Attend a meeting—we’ll help make your retirement resources and Medicare options easy to understand

  • Medicare resources
  • Medicare eligibility and enrollment
  • Plan benefits
  • Preparing for retirement

Join us online

  • Event number: 135 423 5650
  • Event password: APWUhp1@1
  • Connect audio: 1-844-291-6362
  • Access code: 1699181

If you don’t have internet access, join us by phone

  • Dial: 1-844-291-6362, TTY 711
  • Access code: 1699181

Find a complete list of meetings and educational presentation at UHCRetiree.com/APWUHP.

Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Premiums are changing

Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Premiums are changing!

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is announcing changes in premium rates for certain Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) categories. These include changes to premium rates for Employee Basic Insurance, Option A (most age bands), Option B (most age bands), Option C (most age bands), and Post-Retirement Basic Insurance. These rates are effective October 1, 2021 and will be first reflected in your November 1st, 2021 annuity payment.

You can find additional details relating to this change at: www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/life-insurance/program-information/#url=Premium s-for-Annuitants

As a reminder, you can view or print a copy of your annuity payment statement by using the OPM Retirement Services, Services Online platform located at www.servicesonline.opm.gov and entering your claim number and password. If you have forgotten your password, it’s easy to request another one. If you have an email address associated with your Services Online account, simply select the forgot password link from the login page to use our automated password reset system. Please visit www.opm.gov/support/retirement/ for help and more information about your federal retirement benefits.

Sincerely, OPM Retirement Services

 

Federal Benefits Open Season

A New Day for the Civil Service

Federal Benefits Open Season
(Federal Employees Health Benefits and Federal Employees Dental & Vision Insurance Programs)
November 8, 2021 through December 13, 2021

This is the only notification you will receive regarding Open Season.

If you are satisfied with your current health plan, you do not need to do anything.

It’s quick and easy to request health benefit changes and plan information.

– Go to Open Season Online at https://retireefehb.opm.gov

– Call Open Season Express at 1-800-332-9798

– Write to us at:   FEHB Open Season Processing Center
P.O. Box 5000
Lawrence, KS 66046-0500

For General Open Season information, click the above link to use Live Help or send a secure webmail message.

For information on comparing health plans visit http://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/healthcare/plan-information/compare-plans.

For more information regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement visit www.irs.gov/uac/Questions-and-Answers-on-the-Individual-Shared-Responsibility-Provision.

For information on the Federal Employees Dental & Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) visit the secure enrollment website www.benefeds.com or call 1-877-888-3337, TTY 1-877-889-5680.

For more information on Open Season or health care reform legislation, visit www.opm.gov/insure.

For information on Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov.

Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert – July 26th

Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert banner

As Florida becomes U.S. epicenter of covid-19, it reports a wrong death count

Florida recorded more coronavirus cases this week than California, Texas, New York and Illinois combined, a Palm Beach Post analysis of state and federal data shows. The state logged 73,199 more infections in this week’s state Department of Health report. That’s the biggest one-week surge since Jan. 27.

California, Texas, New York and Illinois all together logged 73,116 new infections in the seven days leading up to Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The state took hours longer than usual on Friday to publish its weekly update to inform the public about pandemic statistics. And the late report contained an error in its death tally. Read More

The Florida Legislature has declared war on direct democracy

The Legislature has had it with intrusion on its power by the people of Florida.

This past session, lawmakers adopted Senate Bill 1890, sponsored by southwest Florida state Sen. Ray Rodrigues. It is a severe measure designed to shut down citizen petition gathering for constitutional amendments by limiting the financial contributions that are the oxygen of political movements.

This latest restriction imposes a cap of $3,000 on contributions to committees working to place a constitutional amendment before the voters or opposing a proposed amendment, is being challenged in federal court. Read More

Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion

Conflicting mask recommendations and orders from all levels of government and advocacy groups have emerged over the past few weeks, flustering the public as back-to-school season approaches.

Confusion is mounting over whether children should wear masks in school and whether their vaccination status should play a role in any guidance ahead of next month, when many schools plan to fully reopen for in-person learning.

President Biden addressed the debate this week, saying during a Wednesday town hall that he expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge unvaccinated students to wear masks in schools and to continue to advise vaccinated students that they don’t need masks. Read More

Medicare Anniversary events are being planned in several regions around the state. Keep and eye on your inbox for information as announcements are released.


56th Anniversary of Medicare Brings Fight to Lower Drug Prices into High Gear

Americans continue to pay the highest prices in the industrialized world for prescription drugs, and as Medicare’s 56th anniversary approaches on July 30, the pharmaceutical industry is spending millions to protect their sky-high profits.

More than 54 million seniors rely on Medicare for guaranteed, quality health coverage, and while the program is highly regarded, seniors are still struggling to afford their prescription drugs. A new analysis found that women on Medicare spent an average of $6,175 a year on out-of-pocket health care costs while men spent $5,375, much of it on prescription medications.

“Lower drug prices are an essential part of retirement security, and there is no reason for them to be this high. We know that if Medicare were allowed to negotiate lower prices, the way that the Veterans Administration does today, it would save $450 billion over the next ten years,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Seniors are bearing the brunt of these costs and they cannot afford to continue paying these exorbitant prices.”

The Nevada, Ohio and Oregon Alliance chapters have already held Medicare birthday events. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto joined the Nevada Alliance’s event that included the Women of Washoe earlier this month.

Additional Alliance anniversary events are planned during the next week in Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Vermont and Wisconsin, and several more will follow in August and September. Social Security’s 86th anniversary is August 14.

Action Needed:

As Medicare’s anniversary approaches, the Alliance is doubling down on our advocacy in support of lower drug prices.

Please help by signing our petition to Congress demanding that they pass legislation requiring Medicare to negotiate lower prices.

Senate Holds Hearing on PRO Act, Proponents Drum Up Support

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee held a hearing Thursday morning on H.R. 842, the PRO Act. This bill would protect the rights of workers to unionize in several ways. In her opening statement, Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Committee Chairwoman, railed against the inaction on union protections, saying “[t]he National Labor Relations Act hasn’t been significantly updated since 1947, and the failure to do so has led to serious problems for workers trying to have a voice in their workplaces.”

PRO Act letter delivery at the office of Sen. Ben Sasse (Nebraska) Monday

The legislation will remove barriers that keep workers from forming a union and enable them to bargain for better wages, benefits, and safer workplaces. Workers who form or join a union have greater retirement security. Union workers earn more and can negotiate for benefits such as health care, pensions and employer contributions to retirement plans, which leads to higher income and increased Social Security benefits in retirement. Further, unions often come with negotiated defined benefit pensions, which provide lifelong retirement income.

The hearing fell during the AFL-CIO’s PRO Act Week of Action, with Americans across the country sharing their story and making a case for the bill. Alliance members in several states joined AFL-CIO members at events outside all 100 senators’ offices. The Illinois, Nebraska and Pennsylvania Alliance chapters were among those playing a key role in the events.

PRO Act letter
PRO Act action in Scranton, PA Thursday
PRO Act letter
PRO Act action in Whitehall, PA Thursday

“The Senate’s PRO Act hearing made it even more clear that this legislation needs to be passed today,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “Rebuilding our economy has to include ensuring that every worker has the right to join or form a union and negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.”

American Medical Debt Twice as High as Previously Thought, Concentrated in States Without Medicaid Expansion

New research published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association finds that collection agencies held $140 billion in unpaid medical bills last year – a number that has grown rapidly in just a few years. An earlier study examining debts in 2016 estimated that Americans had $81 billion in medical debt.

The new paper also found that almost 18% of all Americans had medical debt in collections, making medical debt the largest source of American debt owed to collection agencies. The $140 billion figure is not all-inclusive, since it only includes debt sold to collection agencies. The paper used data from before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical debt was primarily held in states that have yet to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the amount of medical debt held in states that did not accept federal funding to expand Medicaid is now around 20% more than in states that did expand it. In 2020, Americans living in states that did not expand Medicaid owed an average of $375 more than those in states that participated in the expansion.

Medical debts are different than other debts: Failing to pay your utility bills could result in shut-offs, and failing to pay your auto loan could cause your car to be repossessed. Medical debts, in contrast, tend mostly to harm people’s credit reports and peace of mind.

“These numbers are astounding. No person should choose between financial ruin and their health,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This paper makes it clear that Medicaid expansion can really help people, and we need the twelve remaining holdout states to end their opposition to it.”

KHN: Though Millions Are at Risk for Diabetes, Medicare Struggles to Expand Prevention Program

By Harris Meyer, Kaiser Health News

Damon Diessner tried for years to slim down from his weight of more than 400 pounds, partly because his size embarrassed his wife but even more because his doctors told him he was at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. His hemoglobin A1c level, a blood sugar marker, was 6.3%, just below the diabetes range of 6.5%.

Then, two years ago, one of his doctors helped get him into a YMCA-run Diabetes Prevention Program not far from his home in Redmond, Washington. The group classes, at first held in person and then via Zoom during the covid-19 pandemic, were led by a lifestyle coach. He learned how to eat better, exercise more and maintain a healthier lifestyle overall. He now weighs 205 pounds, with an A1c level of 4.8%, which is in the normal range.

“This has been a life-changing program,” said Diessner, 68, an environmental consultant. “My cardiologist said you have clearly beaten diabetes. I tell everyone who has blood sugar issues or just wants to lose weight that this is the thing to do.”

Click here to read more.

U.S. COVID Infections, Deaths Drop to Levels Not Seen Since Last Summer

APWU health news

MONDAY, May 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Fewer than 30,000 new coronavirus cases are now being reported daily in the United States, with deaths as low as they have been since last June.

Infection and death rates are dropping dramatically as nearly 50 percent of Americans have now received at least one vaccine shot, Times reported.

“I think by June, we’re probably going to be at one infection per 100,000 people per day, which is a very low level,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” At the moment, that rate is now eight cases per 100,000, down from 22 during the most recent peak in mid-April, the Times reported.

And the number of hospitalized patients has fallen to the lowest point in 11 months, Dr. Eric Topol, of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told the Times.

The United States is reporting about 25,700 new coronavirus cases daily, a 39 percent decrease from two weeks ago, according to a Times database. Deaths are down 14 percent over the same period, to an average of 578 per day.

The million-dollar question now is whether increasing vaccinations can crush the virus or whether it will simmer in areas with low immunization rates and resurface when colder weather returns, David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has been modeling the outbreak for more than a year, told the Washington Post.

“If we’re continuing to have disease reservoirs and we have areas with low vaccinations, it’ll hang on until the fall and start to pick up pace again. It’ll find pockets where there are unvaccinated individuals, and have these sporadic outbreaks,” Rubin said.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci was optimistic about the country’s ability to contain the virus.

“I’m sure that we can control it,” Fauci told the Post. “Somewhere between control and elimination is where we’re going to wind up. Namely a very, very low level that isn’t a public health hazard, that doesn’t disrupt society.”

But although 39 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, rates vary widely, with New England leading the way and much of the South lagging behind, the Times reported.

In five of the six New England states, more than 60 percent of residents are at least partly vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, vaccination rates are all below 40 percent in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Mississippi, at 33 percent, is at the bottom of the list, the Times said.

At the same time, testing rates have fallen around the country, fueling concern that cases could be undercounted in places with high positivity rates, like Miami. And the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the longer the virus has to spread, mutate and possibly change enough to evade vaccines.

“My big concern is that there is going to be a variant that’s going to outsmart the vaccine,” Dr. Thomas LaVeist, dean of Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, told the Times. “Then we’ll have a new problem. We’ll have to revaccinate.”

Approved vaccines show ‘response’ against all COVID variants

Vaccines approved for use in the United States and Europe show protection against all of the more infectious coronavirus variants known to be circling the globe, the World Health Organization said last week.

“All COVID-19 virus variants can be controlled in the same way, with public health and social measures,” European Regional Director Hans Kluge said during a media briefing, CBS News reported. “All COVID-19 virus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available approved vaccines.”

Since January, four variants of concern, including the one bringing India to its knees at the moment, have been monitored by health officials around the world, Kluge said. Known as B.1.617, the Indian variant has been detected in 44 different countries, according to a recent weekly epidemiological update from the WHO, CBS News reported.

“For the time being, we can say that all the four variants do respond to the vaccines made available, as of today,” Kluge said. “But the best way to counteract is to speed up the vaccination rollout.”

Unknown variants of the virus could still emerge and be resistant to existing vaccines, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine said. And experts noted that variant B.1.351, which first emerged in South Africa, might be resistant to some vaccines in development and that mutations like it are still being studied, CBS News reported.

Luckily, early trial results have shown that the Moderna vaccine provides increased immunity against variants of the virus found in South Africa and Brazil. And Pfizer’s original vaccine has been shown to work against the variant first spotted in the United Kingdom, CBS News reported.

Should existing vaccines fail to protect against any emerging variants in the future, the WHO stated that “it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants.”

In the meantime, the news that the vaccines are still working comes as countries around the world start to ease some of the social distancing measures that have been in place for over a year.

Throughout America, states have lifted or eased mask mandates following new guidance from the CDC that says fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear them in many instances.

But Kluge noted that “there is no such thing as zero risk” and warned people to remain cautious.

“Vaccines may be a light at the end of the tunnel but you cannot be blinded by that light,” Kluge said. “We have been here before. Let us not make the same mistakes that were made this time last year that resulted in the resurgence of COVID-19.”

Booster shot likely needed for vaccinated: Fauci

Fully vaccinated people will likely need a COVID-19 booster shot within about a year, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert and Pfizer’s CEO said last week.

“We know that the vaccine durability of the efficacy lasts at least six months, and likely considerably more, but I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.

Fauci also said that variant-specific booster shots may not be needed.

“Instead of having to play whack-a-mole with each individual variant and develop a booster that’s variant-specific, it is likely that you could just keep boosting against the wild type, and wind up getting a good enough response that you wouldn’t have to worry about the variants,” he said. The wild type is the original strain of the virus.

Meanwhile, trials of a Pfizer booster vaccine are ongoing, company CEO Albert Bourla said.
“I believe in one, two months we will have enough data to speak about it with much higher scientific certainty,” he told CNN.

“If they got their second shot eight months ago, they may need a third one,” Bourla said, adding that booster shots could be coming between September and October of this year.

He said Pfizer will have to see what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves, and what its recommendation will be on how best to protect the American people.

Moderna has also been working on a booster shot — a half dose of its vaccine — to fight COVID-19 variants like B.1.351, first seen in South Africa, and P.1, first discovered in Brazil, CNN reported.

In the United States, the vaccination picture is improving by the day. Biden has said there will be enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of this month. As of Monday, 130 million Americans were fully vaccinated and over 58 percent of adults had received at least one dose, according to the CDC. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recently approved the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15.

As of Monday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 33.1 million, while the death toll neared 590,000, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, nearly 167.2 million cases had been reported by Monday, with nearly 3.4 million people dead from COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
SOURCES: The New York Times; Washington Post; CNN; CBS News

Anton Hajjar Confirmed to Postal Board of Governors

We are writing with the exciting news that Anton Hajjar, President Biden’s third nominee, was just confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Postal Board of Governors!

Anton is the former General Counsel of the American Postal Workers Union and a strong advocate for workers’  rights and the public service mission of the People’s Post Office.

This would not have been possible without the efforts of APWU members and our allies. Earlier this year, we successfully petitioned the Biden administration to swiftly nominate governors to the Board who would work to restore quality mail service and support an agenda of expanding the role of USPS in our communities.

We look forward to working with Hajjar, along with new Board members McReynolds and Stroman, and will be expressing to the Board the need to make decisions to improve the Postal Service for both the communities it serves and our members.

To read more about the new governors and how APWU members played a crucial role in their appointment, please click here.

In Union Solidarity,

Mark Dimondstein
President

Judy Beard
Legislative & Political Director