Letter to the Editor | State government retirees drowning in inflation

Tim O’Connell, Executive Director, North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees Association – March 9, 2023

More than 320,000 local and state government retirees are drowning in inflation. With a likely probability of another multi-billion-dollar surplus for the state, it’s time to do the right thing and provide inflation-fighting cost-of-living adjustments for these dedicated women and men.

The fact that everything costs more today is common knowledge. Over the past decade, individual purchasing power has declined by 29 percent. The basket of basic goods bought 10 years ago for $100 now costs $129. During this same period, cost-of-living adjustments totaled just 2 percent for state retirees and less than 1 percent for local government retirees.

This widening gap of lack of cost-of-living adjustments related to inflation hurts not only the retirees but the entire North Carolina economy. This is particularly true in North Carolina’s rural counties, where a higher percentage of retired public servants live compared to urban counties.

And yet retirees are good for the state’s economy. The National Institute of Retirement Security reports that in North Carolina, public pensioners support more than 49,477 jobs across all 100 counties and across a breadth of industries, from hospitality to healthcare to real estate. The value of this to the North Carolina economy is $8.1 billion a year and excludes the $1.2 billion this group pays in taxes to the state and federal government. The continued stagnation of cost-of-living adjustments will reduce this impact if not addressed.

While retirees remain grateful for the one-time bonuses the North Carolina General Assembly and Retirement System Trustees have provided over the past decade, such appreciated efforts will not abate the issue of short and long-term inflation. With the average retirement payment of approximately $1,650 monthly for retired public servants and the current 29 percent reduction in buying power adjusted for inflation, North Carolina has not seen this significant disparity in nearly 50 years.

Public sector retirees are forced to make hard decisions at the grocery store and at the pharmacy, and some struggle to maintain their own homes. Governmental retirees are our neighbors, friends, and parents. They educated our children, maintained our roads, cared for our loved ones, provided our families with clean drinking water, and were the first responders who put in long and often dangerous hours to keep our communities safe.

As we look at ways to bolster the resiliency of the North Carolina economy, serious consideration must be given to how it can be done in a way that provides dignity and quality of life to governmental retirees. As our legislators and elected officials make decisions in what is projected as another year of surplus revenues, they cannot forget our retired public servants.

Weekly Update: March 17, 2023

New Tool Allows Members to Better Advocate for Their Retirement Needs

NCRGEA Partners with FastDemocracy

In an exciting new development, NCRGEA has partnered with FastDemocracy to offer members the ability to follow the Association’s advocacy efforts and what is happening in the North Carolina legislature. Pensions, retiree healthcare, broadband — any issue that is a priority to our members will be tracked and then shared on our website for you to see.

What’s New?

  • Bill Tracker Page – on our website, we now have a page that displays the specific bills being
  • tracked by NCRGEA. When we see a bill of interest, we will add it to our list. Members will be able to explore this list, including information about the bills and sponsors, notes added by the Association, etc. There are also video tutorials located on the page for using this function.
  • Find My NC Legislator — not sure who to contact when NCRGEA asks for help in advocating for an issue related to public employees? With our FastDemocracy partnership, there’s no need to wonder any longer. Use the legislator search function to type in your address and find your State Representative and Senator. 

Both pages are located under the Advocacy section in the NCRGEA website‘s dropdown menu.

Our Commitment to Members

NCRGEA is committed to representing its members and empowering them with the tools needed to advocate effectively for their retirement needs. We will continue to explore technology and any other tools needed to bring us all together in pursuit of a common goal — protecting you in retirement after a lifetime of dedicated public service.

Treasurer Folwell Announces New Third-Party Administrator for the State Health Plan

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

North Carolina’s Treasurer announced on Wednesday, January 4 the award of the Third-Party Administrative (TPA) Services Contract to Aetna. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is the current TPA for the Plan and has been the TPA for more than 40 years.

The three-year initial service period for the contract begins January 1, 2025, and continues through December 31, 2027, with the option to renew for two, one-year terms.

This change will not impact our members who are enrolled in the Humana Group Medicare Advantage Plans. It will only impact members on the Base PPO Plan (70/30) and the Enhanced PPO Plan (80/20) which are currently being administered by Blue Cross NC.

Plan members will start receiving more information regarding the changes in 2024 prior to our Open Enrollment Period for the 2025 benefit year.

The administrative contract, awarded by the State Health Plan Board of Trustees, oversees health care spending of more than $17.5 billion over five years. The new contract reflects a partnership that focuses on transparency and lower costs, with the potential administrative cost savings over the course of the contract equaling $140 million. 

The award is the result of a Request for Proposals, a competitive bid process in which the Plan solicited and selected industry-leading partners providing exceptional customer service, technological resources and professional support. The services under the contract include processing claims and offering a comprehensive network of health care providers.  Aetna was one of three companies bidding for the contract. Blue Cross NC and UMR, Inc. also submitted proposals.

The State Health Plan, a division of the Department of State Treasurer, provides health care coverage to nearly 740,000 teachers, state employees, retirees, current and former lawmakers, state university and community college personnel, and their dependents.

$500 Travel Giveaway Winner Announced: Local Government Retiree

Congratulations to the winner of our $500 Travel Giveaway. Lesha West retired in 2014 from the Cabarrus County Department of Social Services. Prior to that, she was with the Rowan County Department of Social Services. We hope she enjoys a wonderful trip in 2023!

Win $500 Toward Travel. Deadline is January 3, 2023!

Whether sand and waves or a view of the Eiffel Tower, here’s a chance to earn $500 toward travel to your dream destination in 2023. You do not need to be a member to win. Use the QR code or visit bit.ly/ncrgeagiveaway to enter the giveaway.

Things To Do On An Annual Basis

LivingPower Newsletter, Jan./Feb. 2023

As 2023 began, no doubt many of you made New Year’s Resolutions, and probably a few of those resolutions have already been broken. But resolutions don’t have to be life-changing nor do they have to begin with the start of the new year. There are many things you can do throughout the year to improve the quality of your life. The following are a few items that can be done during the year that can make your life better and possibly healthier.

  1. Clean your closet and drawers and get rid of anything you haven’t worn in at least a year, anything that doesn’t fit you, or anything that is too worn or ripped to repair. Donate what you can.
  2. Visit the last town you lived. Remember why you don’t live there anymore. Feel grateful for what you have in comparison to what you had.
  3. Go somewhere you’ve never been before, someplace you’ve always wanted to see but never did. In the coming editions of LivingPower, we’ll be highlighting interesting places here in North Carolina.
  4. Volunteer. It’s good for your soul, your mind, your heart, and your community. NCRGEA is working with Meals on Wheels for a big event in March that you can volunteer to be a part of. More on that to follow.
  5. Make a new friend — a real friend. Find things you have in common and do things together. One of the benefits of being a member of NCRGEA is the opportunity to meet people you have something in common with, you’re all state or local government retirees. Get your NCRGEA district’s Community Advisory Board, or CAB, to organize social events.
  6. Make all the doctor, dentist, and other appointments that are so easy to blow off. Take a look at your health coverage. Medical needs can change from year to year, so make sure the coverage you have meets the needs you have now and in the future. Contact our benefits partner AMBA to see if they can assist you.
  7. Rewatch your favorite movie, or reread your favorite book — and see if there’s now something else that jumps out at you with either age, experience, or simply new eyes. Then tell your new friend about it.
  8. Go somewhere really nice to eat. Dress up for it. It could be a “date” or a night out with friends, hopefully, ones you met through NCRGEA.
  9. Try something you’ve sworn all your life that you absolutely hate — but maybe just never really gave a chance.
  10. Make a conscious effort to thank all the people you might be taking for granted in your day-to-day life.
  11. Learn how to cook a new meal. Invite people over to share it with you.
  12. Spend time in nature, whether that’s on a day hike on a nearby trail, or a few days camping with your family and friends.
  13. Go to a museum, see a band or a sports game live, or watch a play or a musical. Experience culture without the help of technology.
  14. Give flowers to someone you love and appreciate.
  15. Reach out to someone you admire. Build a connection. See what you might be able to learn from them — and even how you might be able to help them, too.
  16. Try to make amends with someone with whom you might have had a falling out. If you can’t fix the relationship, at least let that wound heal as healthfully as possible.
  17. Ask yourself if you’re happy. And if you’re not, ask yourself what might help you work towards getting there, and then make it happen.
  18. Give yourself a self-administered fitness test. Consider instituting a tradition in which you challenge yourself to a set of physical tasks to see how you measure up.
  19. Take your pet to the vet and include blood work in the checkup. It’s a good way to get ahead of any health issues that could arise, ensure your pet is up-to-date on any necessary vaccinations, and get valuable insights into how your pet is doing.
  20. Find out what your credit score is by getting an annual free credit check. Also, schedule a visit with a financial advisor or your bank to review your money and your plans that may have occurred over the course of the year.
  21. Drain your hot water heater. It will help it last longer by eliminating any minerals or debris that have built up and could cause the unit to break down.
  22. Get your home’s carpets, rugs, and upholstery cleaned with steamers, a soapy bucket, a rented machine, or professionals. Other yearly cleanups include emptying the gutters and cleaning the fireplace and chimney.
  23. Once a year, bring in a professional to check out your car, air conditioning units, furnace, roof, gas appliances, the exterior of your house and pipes. Termite inspections should happen on the regular, too.
  24. To make sure smoke detectors are always in top form, test them monthly and replace batteries every year.