Weekly Updates

Federal Benefits, Retirement, & Other Updates

July 9, 2021
PMA & Partner Webinar Presentations

Be sure to visit our blog for upcoming presentations from our friends at NARFE and Shaw Bransford & Roth. PMA will be hosting WAEPA on July 20th at 3PM to talk with our members about their products and how you can protect yourself and your family when life takes a turn.

Retirement Considerations

We hear from a number of PMA members who are weighing their retirement options. Phased retirement might be an option to help transition more gently into your next chapter. Our official charity, FEEA, put together a video on phased retirement and an article that explains the program. Maybe you would prefer to leave as early as possible but aren't sure how to make that decision? Federal Benefits Expert Tammy Flanagan published an article on what leaving ASAP might cost you. For those of you who served as temporary employees, you have to wait even longer to retire under the current law. PMA is happy to support H.R. 4268, the Federal Retirement Fairness Act, which would permit former temp employees to make catch-up contributions to CSRS/FERS so they can retire on time.

FEHB 'Surprise' Medical Billing

Thursday, OPM and HHS published an interim final rule in the Federal Register barring Federal Employee Health Benefit Program insurers from surprise medical billing. The rule bans, for both FEHB participants and people covered by group health plans and other insurance programs, surprise billing for emergency services, mandating that hospital services must be treated on an in-network basis. And it bans insurance companies from charging out-of-network rates for ancillary care, like anesthesiology, at an in-network facility. It also bans high out-of-network cost-sharing, including co-insurance and deductibles, for both emergency and non-emergency services. Under the regulations, patient cost-sharing for out-of-network doctors cannot be higher than if those services were provided by an in-network doctor. And it requires health care providers to obtain patients’ consent for care that will be billed as out-of-network before the provider can bill at the higher out-of-network rate. The rule goes into effect on January 1, 2022.

Best Places to Work in the Federal Government

The Partnership for Public Service released its 2020 rankings for Best Places to Work last week. Each agency was given an engagement score based on the answers to three questions on individual job satisfaction, satisfaction with their organization more broadly, and whether the employee would recommend their agency as a good place to work. The Partnership recently changed its methodology from previous years to calculate the 2020 scores.

Among 17 large agencies, NASA took the lead, with an engagement score of 86.6. In midsize agencies, GAO ranked first with a score of 89.4. Among small agencies, the Congressional Budget Office led the group with an engagement score of 92.8. Ranking at the bottom of the large agencies was DHS, with an engagement score of 61.1. For mid-size agencies, the U.S. Agency for Global Media ranked 25th out of 25 agencies. OPM ranked 15th out of 25 and GSA ranked 6th. While Treasury was 6th overall, the IRS tied with the FBI at 223rd place (of 411 subagency components).

Overall, the Partnership found that public sector employee engagement lags behind the private sector, whose overall engagement score is eight points higher. The Partnership obtained comparable data on the private sector from Mercer. However, public sector employees were roughly 6 percent more likely to say people they work with cooperate to get jobs done. Public sector employees were also more satisfied with their pay and more likely to report that supervisors treat them with respect and listen to what they have to say than in the private sector.

Meanwhile, private sector employees felt more satisfied with the handling of everyday workplace issues during the pandemic. The largest gap between public and private sector scores was on the issue of employee voice. Almost 43 percent of federal employees said results of the FEVS will be used by their leadership to make their organizations better places to work compared to 66 percent of private sector employees. Further, 82 percent of private sector employees reported having trust and confidence in their supervisors, 6 percent more than in the public sector.

The Partnership explains, “Federal leaders should understand that the government competes with the private sector for the best talent, and they should endeavor to meet or exceed employee engagement levels seen in the best private sector companies. The best private sector organizations understand that increased employee engagement leads to better performance and outcomes, and federal leaders need to follow suit by placing greater emphasis on improving employee engagement and workplace culture.”

Driving Engagement via DEIA Intiatives

One sure way for the Federal government to compete with the private sector for talent is to make progress on the Administration's workforce DEIA priorities. That progress is not without its challenges. In his most recent Executive Order on the topic, President Biden acknowledged that bias and discrimination can occur at each stage in a career, requiring agencies to develop strategies to eliminate barriers to equity during virtually all processes: "recruitment; hiring; background investigation; promotion; retention; performance evaluations and awards; professional development programs; mentoring programs or sponsorship initiatives; internship, fellowship, and apprenticeship programs; etc." PMA looks forward to supporting the IRS as it takes action to implement this EO and in the years to come as we work to recruit and retain a workforce reflective of our nation.

IRS Infrastructure Investment Faces an Uphill Battle

Another way to improve engagement in the IRS is out of the agency's hands at the moment. We look to our congressional partners to ensure the agency is well-funded and modernized so that we have the tools we need to fairly and equitably enforce the tax code. It's no surprise in DC that the IRS is struggling to provide top quality service while groups staunchly advocate against funding for the agency. The Ways & Means Committee minority put out talking points to politicize the agency and undermine funding talks. We are working hard on both sides of the aisle to make clear that inadequate annual funding leaves the agency unable to make the improvements it so sorely needs.

If your roof is leaking, you might only be able to afford to patch it this year but eventually the roof will need to be replaced. The longer you wait to make that investment, the more damage will occur to your house, and the result is an even more expensive repair bill. This is the IRS's story for more than 20 years now - as a nation, we need to make a major, one-time investment to modernize and the longer we wait, the more it will cost.

Weekly updates