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House Passage of Postal Reform Legislation—Check It Off!
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
On Feb. 8, the House of Representatives finally passed H.R. 3076, the “Postal Reform Act of 2022,” by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of 342 to 92. All House Democrats and 120 Republicans voted “yes.” The bill’s passage is a tribute to the bipartisan efforts of Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) and the measure’s 102 co-sponsors.
The tortuous and meandering journey to House approval often was frustrating; nevertheless, it’s a credit to the perseverance of our postal allies on Capitol Hill, our very own NAPS legislative advocates, the greater postal community and the Postal Service itself that we can check off this legislative box on the way, hopefully, to H.R. 3076 being signed into law by President Biden.
The day before House passage, President Biden alerted members of the House of his strong support of H.R. 3076 through what is known as a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP). In part, his SAP declared: “The United States Postal Service and its dedicated employees provide an essential public service and the critical public infrastructure for the delivery of mail and packages to all Americans in every corner of the country.”
The President went on to say, “The Administration is committed to ensuring that the Postal Service delivers the highest quality, most reliable service to every American.” The White House communication restated Biden’s longstanding commitment to support repeal of the Postal Service’s punitive requirement to prepay future retirement health benefits.
Of special interest to EAS-level postal employees, the President indicated in the SAP that the Administration supports “providing postal employees with the dignity, fair pay and employer-provided benefits they have earned.” This comment by Biden has positive implications for the provision included in H.R. 3077, the “Postal Improvement Act,” that replicates the text of H.R. 1623, the “Postal Supervisors and Managers Fairness Act.”
The version of H.R. 3076 passed by the House differs from the original version approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The revision addressed a number of issues raised by the Ways & Means Committee, the Energy & Commerce Committee, the Office of Personnel Management and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
In addition, the revised bill remedied a concern of some retirees. Generally, the House-passed bill maintains the sections of the original bill intended to repeal the retiree pre-funding requirement, authorize a postal-only health plan within the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), require future postal retirees to enroll in Medicare, enable the Postal Service to provide a variety of governmental non-postal products and services and create an online, publicly accessible postal performance portal. However, in contrast to the committee-passed bill, the House-passed version would implement the postal health plan and Medicare integration on Jan. 1, 2025, rather than on Jan. 1, 2023.
In addition, all active and retired postal employees would participate in the FEHBP postal health benefits plan. The committee-approved bill exempts from Medicare coverage postal employees who are over the age of 64 on the date of postal plan implementation and individuals who were retired on that date. The House-passed bill also exempts postal retirees covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Indian Health Service, as well as those living abroad.
For retirees who previously waived Medicare coverage and who want to enroll in Medicare during a one-time open season, the House-passed bill requires the Postal Service to pay the late penalty. Finally, the House-passed bill directs the Postal Service, in collaboration with the Office of Personnel Management, to develop an interactive education program to help postal employees and retirees acclimate to the new FEHBP postal health benefits program. On the whole, the House-passed bill is projected to save the Postal Service about $50 billion and will lower postal health insurance premiums.
Obviously, House passage of H.R. 3076 alters one of our key legislative priorities for the March 2022 Legislative Training Seminar (LTS). Therefore, we intend to thank the 342 House members who voted “yes” on H.R. 3076 and, more importantly, urge our senators to expeditiously approve the House-passed bill. As you should be aware, in an election year, there is little time to spare.
One provision included in the House-passed bill has attracted the attention of United Parcel Service (UPS). Specifically, Section 202, which directs the Postal Service to maintain a six-day, integrated delivery network. UPS feels threatened by this provision and wants the Postal Service to create separate delivery networks for traditional and “competitive products,” such as parcels. Such a division would undermine affordable universal service for all postal products by forcing the Postal Service to raise rates on competitive postal products.
UPS did not have any success in the House in its attempt to derail the bill, so it has set its sight on the Senate. In addition to already engaged and aggressive Senate lobbying, “Big Brown” is leveraging its financial support of right-leaning Washington-based “think tanks” to soften and undermine Republican Senate support for the bill. As this column went to press, there were 14 Republican Senate co-sponsors of the Senate companion to H.R. 3076.
One of NAPS’ key priorities at LTS will be to urge the Senate to promptly pass H.R. 3076 and send it to President Biden for his signature. Although the Senate companion to H.R. 3076 is S. 1720, the quickest path to enactment is for the Senate to pass H.R. 3076.
In the near future, I hope to report to you—possibly before LTS—that the bill was signed into law. The legislation will provide essential financial breathing space, clear the way for the Senate to take up the confirmation of two new members of the Board of Governors and provide the opportunity for NAPS to push passage of H.R. 3077, the “Postal Service Improvement Act,” authored by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Maloney.
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