The AREF had a productive year in 2021 without sponsoring due to COVID the usual spring and fall NRLN fly-ins to Washington, D.C.
AREF provided for the updates of six white papers:
- Pension Plan Risks in Mergers, Acquisitions and Spin-offs – These actions greatly increase the risk of a distress termination and the loss of benefits for retirees. The white paper explains that Congress needs to update a number of ERISA provisions to ensure that this activity does not unnecessarily increase the risk of a distress termination and permanent pension losses for plan participants.
- Defined Benefit Pension Plan Mergers – This white paper focused on a looming new form of financial engineering: the merging of pension plans as part of a strategy to benefit the plan sponsor by combining plans with very different levels of plan assets and liabilities. Proposed actions are identified to prevent defined-benefit plan mergers from damaging the vested rights of pension plan participants.
- Protecting Retiree Benefits in Bankruptcy – Bankruptcy courts view their priority under Chapter 11 as facilitating the company’s survival and judges are inclined to agree to management’s request to terminate promised pensions. The white paper provides proposals on how to prevent the growing gap in the legal protections for retiree pension benefits when plans are terminated in bankruptcy.
- Congress and President Must Act to Reduce Price of Prescription Drugs – This white paper documents the high cost of prescription drugs and bills that Congress has not passed to reduce the price of medicines. The NRLN’s proposals included 1. Remove the prohibition on Medicare negotiating prescription drug prices and replace it with a competitive bidding mandate. 2. End pay-for-delay and other brand-name drugmakers’ tactics that keep generic drugs off the market. 3. Allow Americans to import from licensed Canadian pharmacies prescription drugs manufactured at FDA-inspected facilities.
- A 23-YEAR ATTEMPT TO PRIVATIZE MEDICARE HAS FAILED – This white paper was used by the NRLN to lobby against subsidies and legislated restrictions placed on original Medicare just to preserve the notion that Medicare Advantage private insurance plans are inherently more effective.
- Time to End Taxpayer Rebates to the Private Healthcare Insurance Industry – This is a more concise version of the white paper noted immediately above. It supports the NRLN’s positions that: 1. Healthcare costs are rising four times faster than Medicare enrollees. 2. Medicare Advantage’s market share is 43.1% (24.9 million enrollees) in 2021 with $370 billion revenue. 3. After 24 years, despite over $450 billion in taxpayer rebates, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) payments per Medicare Advantage enrollee in 2021 was 104% of payments made to an original Medicare enrollee. 4. With the Medicare Advantage plans market share at 43.1% it’s time to realize subsidized growth can no longer be justified!
The AREF provided for the production of the usual three 2021 issues of the NRLN FOCUS newsletter.
- The spring newsletter included: NRLN President’s column on Why We Need You [NRLN members]; NRLN Executive Director’s column on Legislative Outlook for Issues Important to Retirees; and an article on NRLN Asks Members of Congress to Reintroduce Key Bills.
- The summer newsletter included: NRLN President’s column on Congress Should Ensure a Better Medicare; NRLN Executive Director’s column on NRLN Engaged with Legislation to Help Retirees; Articles on Why NRLN Is Valuable by Jay Kuhnie, President, National Chrysler Retirement Organization, and Vern Larson, President, Avaya Retirees Chapter.
- The fall newsletter included: NRLN President’s column on Fighting Pharma’s Power to Lower Drug Prices; NRLN Executive Director’s column on Delay, Delay, Delay by Congress on bills the NRLN supports; Articles by Monte Baggs, President, TelCo Retirees Association, and Joe Sciulli, President, Lucent/Nokia Retirees Chapter on Telco Retirees Association and Lucent/Nokia Retirees Chapter Have Long History with NRLN;Profiles: NRLN Board and Executive Director Have Wide Range of Experience.
A letter was mailed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to prioritize adding in her healthcare reform agenda a low out-of-pocket cap to original Medicare and ban pre-existing condition requirements for Medicare supplemental insurance. The letter included an attachment of the NRLN’s whitepaper Medicare Out-of-Pocket Health Cost Limits, The Unfinished Business of Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries from Catastrophic Health Care Costs. The AREF created an online survey that provided data to help make the case that an out-of-pocket cap should be added to original Medicare.
The AREF made possible improvements to NRLN Report Card which shows the bills the NRLN is supporting and opposing in the 117th Congress. It shows whether the Senators and the Representatives for a state are a cosponsor of the bills. Also, thanks to the AREF, new look for the NRLN website was created to make it easier for visitors to get information on retirement issues and the NRLN’s work in Washington, D.C. Work is underway on creating a new look for the AREF website.
Savings Act. It clarifies that a pension plan does not have a fiduciary duty to recoup overpayments, but if it chooses to do so, it must be done within three years of the initial overpayment. (Now there is no limit to back years.) The company may not recoup more than 10% of the amount of the overpayment per year, and it may not recoup against a beneficiary of a pension plan participant. The other NRLN proposal in the bill would promote the funding of healthcare and life insurance benefits for retirees with single employer defined benefit pensions by amending the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 420 to set the surplus transfer limit at 110%.