VSEA Leadership Votes To Move VSEA Medicare-Eligible Retirees Into EGWP Prescription Drug Plan
VSEA President Shelley Martin Sent the following message to all VSEA members and retirees on March 17:
“I know many of you have been hearing and reading recently about the State’s desire for VSEA to agree that Medicare-eligible retirees and Medicare-eligible dependents move into a federally administered prescription drug plan called an Employer Group Waiver Program, or an EGWP (“eggwhip”) plan. To maintain retirees’ current level of prescription drug coverage, EGWP would need to be supplemented with a “wraparound” benefit provided by the State.
EGWP is a plan the State tried to introduce twice in recent bargaining, but, according to our Bargaining Teams, the proposal never got far because the State was not offering a wraparound benefit at that time.
But the State recently revised its initial EGWP proposal to our Bargaining Teams to include a wraparound, prompting your VSEA officers and Board of Trustees to hold many follow-up meetings with State officials to get more clarification and have our questions answered. In addition, we all met and debated EGWP + Wrap internally for hours. In the end, your leadership, including VSEA Unit Chairs, made a collective decision to support moving Medicare-eligible retirees and Medicare-eligible dependents into an EGWP + Wrap drug plan.
Again, the primary reason for our decision was the State’s willingness to guarantee VSEA retirees wraparound coverage, meaning any drug not covered by the EGWP portion of the plan will be covered under the State’s wraparound benefit. After all is said and done, there will be very minor changes to VSEA retirees’ prescription drug coverage, and the State will receive an estimated $600,000 to $1 million dollars in Federal subsidies each year, a portion of which will be used to reduce over-65 retirees’ prescription drug premiums.
I completely understand that a lot of VSEA members and retirees may be confused by some of what you may have heard in the past few weeks about EGWP, including your union’s position on the subject. I was equally confused at first, because, like many of you, all I knew was that the State was at the State House actively trying to get legislation passed that would have put VSEA retirees into an EGWP without a wraparound. This would have been very bad.
But thanks to our retirees’ and members’ grassroots efforts, including hundreds of phone calls and e-mails early-on denouncing the State’s unilateral legislative effort, they agreed to return to the table to talk with VSEA about what needed to be included in order to gain our support for a move like this. At the table, your leadership demanded that the State had to provide VSEA with a comprehensive analysis of EGWP’s impact, if any; a guarantee to our retirees that their prescription drug coverage will not change; and the inclusion of the wraparound coverage provision. In the end, VSEA members’ and retirees’ voices were heard, and we were able to secure all of these, as well as get the assurances in writing in the form of a legally-binding agreement.
Here some quick facts about EGWP + Wrap:
Applies to Medicare-eligible retirees and their covered Medicare-eligible dependents;
Is a Medicare Part D drug plan with a State of Vermont prescription drug wraparound;
Will take effect on January 1, 2015;
Most drugs in VSEA retirees’ current plan are included in the Medicare Part D’s EGWP “formulary,” (list of covered drugs). Any drug not included in the Part D formulary is included in the State’s wraparound drug benefit;
The only difference between the current plan and EGWP + Wrap is that the small list of drugs that change tiers each year would be a different list for the EGWP + Wrap plan than for the current plan. To explain: the State Employees Medical Plan includes three tiers of drugs: generics (10% co-pay), preferred brand drugs (20% co-pay), and non-preferred brand drugs (40% co-pay);
Each year, under our current plan, there is a handful of drugs (around 10) that change tiers, or co-pay levels, either from 20% to 40%, or vice versa. Under EGWP + Wrap, the same process will occur except that the list will be a different list. However, any drug moving to 40% will always have 10% generic or 20% preferred brand alternatives, or both; and
Each year, VSEA and the State meet to discuss and review formulary changes before they are implemented, and this process will continue for the EGWP + Wrap plan.
EGWP + Wrap Advantages:
Plan allows State to draw down federal subsidies to lower the current and projected future costs of over-65 retirees prescription drug plan costs; and
The State has agreed to lower health-care premiums for VSEA Medicare-eligible retirees and Medicare-eligible dependents by a portion of the savings from increased federal subsidies.
The decision to move VSEA retirees into an EGWP + Wrap did not come easily, and did not come without a lot of debate and clarification, but when your leadership factored in the nearly identical nature of our current plan and EGWP + Wrap, and the savings for both retirees and Vermont taxpayers, we made what we believed is a prudent decision. We hope you will agree.
VSEA Sends Out First
On the heels of Monday’s announcement by VSEA leadership that the union and State have agreed to move Medicare-eligible VSEA retirees and dependents into a federally administered Employee Group Waiver prescription drug plan, VSEA wasted no time putting together the first of several Q&A’s the union hopes to send out well in advance of the January 1, 2015, implementation date.
“This Q and A is just the first of many ways VSEA and the State will be trying to make our members and retirees as comfortable as possible with this transition before next year,” explained VSEA President Shelley Martin. “I urge VSEA members and retirees to read through the Q and A that was sent this week to see if your question is answered. If it wasn’t, please click on the link in the message we sent to send your question to VSEA.”
If you have misplaced this week’s Q&A from VSEA, please click HERE to submit your EGWP question(s):
VSEA Joins Vermont Workers’ Center To Urge Legislators To Provide Paid Sick Days
Tuesday March 18 at the State House, VSEA President Shelley Martin joined the Workers’ Center, other unions and business leaders (like Ben and Jerry, pictured here bottom) to urge the legislature to pass a bill granting paid sick days to all working Vermonters.
Martin talked about VSEA’s effort to procure paid sick days for temps throughout Vermont, and called on legislators to provide paid sick days to all working Vermonters. She also talked about her own experience with paid sick leave after being diagnosed with cancer. "I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have sick leave," she said. "This is important to a lot of working Vermonters, especially working women, like single mothers with children."
Jerry Greenfield talked about the need for the Governor and legislature to "even the playing field" for all businesses operating in Vermont, reminding how many grocery businesses groused about B&J’s bottle bill legislation a few years back, but "A lot of them are still where they were. The bill didn’t cause them to shut down, like they said they would have to if it passed."
VSEA Launches New Digger Ads Opposing The Scapegoating Of
VSEA began running a series of new ads on VTDigger (www.vtdigger.org) this week, featuring “Scapy;” a scapegoat who works for the Economic Services Division and is being blamed for the 3SquaresVT program’s high error rate.
The ad running on Digger’s website links to a page featuring public quotes in the past five years from State officials trying to explain why Vermont’s 3Squares’ program is suffering and why the program’s error rates remain so high. On that page, viewers will find a link to a broader 3Squares’ timeline that uses material culled from that past five years of VSEA Week In Action to again help highlight the real reasons 3squares continues to fight high error rates.
Vermonters viewing the ad are asked to send a message to DCF officials, asking them to stop scapegoating frontline workers for the error rates and acknowledge that years-long system mismanagement and an ongoing failure to listen to frontline workers’ constructive criticism are probably more to blame for 3Squares’ current problems.
VSEA members can view the ad content by clicking HERE.
VSEA Launches Free App
VSEA members using an iPhone or Android can now download the new VSEA App called “VSEAUnite.” Once registered, users identify their VSEA bargaining unit and location, and the App will allow you to view your Unit’s contract, find contact information for your nearest VSEA steward (to report contract infractions), see a calendar of upcoming VSEA events and read the latest news about working people to hit the wires.
The download is free, so your union hopes all VSEA iPhone and Android users will download it today!
Striking CCTA Bus Drivers Asking For VSEA Members’ Help
Bus drivers working for the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) have been on strike since Monday, and they are urgently reaching out to VSEA members for help with the following:
Walking the picket line with the drivers;
Attending a Friday, March 21, “Solidarity Dinner” for the drivers, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Barnes School Cafeteria (123 North St.);
Put an "I [Heart] My Bus Driver/CCTA Fair Contract Now" lawn sign in your yard. Pick one up, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at the UP/AFT Office in Burlington at 308 Pine St. or the Workers’ Center office at 294 N. Winooski Ave.;
Donating to the CCTA Community Solidarity Fund, established to aid striking workers and their families. Please make checks payable to the Peace & Justice Center and note “CCTA Community Solidarity Fund” in your check’s memo line. You can also donate by clicking HERE, and please designate your donation as going to the CCTA Community Solidarity Fund;
Signing the online petition to support the drivers, which you can doHERE;
Liking the “We Support the CCTA Drivers” Facebook page, which can be found HERE;
Calling CCTA Commissioners to convey your support for the drivers. Call Chapin Spencer at 802-860-7321 or Tom Buckley at 802-654-6961; and
Keeping updated on the latest on the drivers’ strike by clicking HERE.
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