June 17, 2014 Legislative Update from your Maryland Federation Legislative Committee

Current Legislation of NARFE Interest

From MD Federation Legislative Committee Chair, Sudha K. Haley, Ph.D.

 Semipostal Stamp

Our Maryland Federation and our own FLC’s Kathy Siggins have submitted a resolution to be considered at the NARFE National Convention.  We are requesting NARFE’s letters of endorsement to the Committees, supporting passage of H.R. 1508 and S. 1091, to establish an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Semipostal Stamp.  These bills are referred to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

 NARFE’s Support & Opposition

NARFE has pushed reintroduction of legislation (H.R. 4621, last brought up in 2007), of the Federal Employee Combat Zone Tax Parity Act.  The Bill would ensure that federal employees serving in designated combat zones receive the same tax exemptions as military members.

Another Bill NARFE has supported is the FAIR Act (S.2397), companion Bill to H.R. 4306.  The Bill would provide a 3.3 % pay increase for federal employees.

NARFE is opposing a proposal House leaders circulated to fund the Highway Trust Fund (which runs out of money in August) through savings garnered by having the Postal Service go to a 5-day delivery.

NARFE continues to oppose the Senate Postal Reform Bill (S. 1486), stalled in the Senate.  The Bill still has the health care provisions requiring postal employees and retirees to join a new Postal Employee Health Benefit Program within FEHBP.

 V A Bill

The House has approved legislation sponsored by the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.  The Bill gives Veterans, stuck on long wait lists for medical care, the ability to seek treatment outside of the system established by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

 Jobs Bills

  • Congressman Steny Hoyer has indicated there are now 23 new Jobs Bills being added to the “Make It In America” plan.  It will strengthen manufacturing jobs and competitiveness both in the immediate term and over the longer term and bring jobs back to the United States;
  • On June 6, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee announced the passage of FY 2015 appropriations for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) and Related Agencies’ Bills.  These appropriations will support thousands of jobs in Maryland.  The Bill will next be considered on the Senate Floor.

An Alert

A bipartisan Bill, introduced in Congress is “Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2013” (S. 569 and H.R. 1179).  If passed, it won’t count the time patients spend in hospitals under “observation status,” towards the 3-day stay requirement to provide seniors with the full Medicare benefits they have earned.  At the House Ways and Means Sub-Committee on Health’s Hearing, Seniors described that increasingly hospitals have been placing patients under “observation status” (which is considered “outpatients,” rather than admitting them as “in-patients.”  In the “observation status,” patients are spending multiple days in hospitals only to discover they are responsible for both higher copays and bills for routine medications unrelated to their stay.  In addition, if they are moving from hospitals to skilled nursing facilities, without the 3-day “inpatient stay” they have no coverage for post-acute care.

 OPM Final Regs. on Phased Retirement

OPM will release final regulations this Fall, to be implemented for FY 2015, regarding a phased retirement.  It would allow all federal employees to move into part-time status prior to retirement, without a negative impact on their annuity.

 Capitol Hill Recesses

  • House & Senate: June 30-July 4 & August 4-September 5;
  • House only: September 22-26.

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