Lawmakers Reintroduce Bipartisan Postal Reform Bill

David Goldman/AP file photo

A bipartisan group of House leaders with oversight of the U.S. Postal Service introduced legislation on Tuesday to overhaul the mailing agency, pushing a bill nearly identical to one from last year.

The 2017 Postal Service Reform Act, introduced by Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the respective chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.; Dennis Ross, R-Fla.; Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., mirrors a measure the committee easily passed in 2016.

The House bill would require postal retirees electing to receive federal health insurance to enroll in Medicare parts A and B as their primary care provider. The bill would phase out the Postal Service’s share of retirees’ Medicare premiums over four years. Most postal employees enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program would have to select a plan specific to USPS workers.

The Medicare integration would largely solve the issue of prefunding future retirees’ health care, as required by a 2006 law. The issue has been a sticking point in previous attempts at postal reform, as the cash-strapped agency has struggled to make the payments and defaulted on them in recent years. USPS would make actuarial payments toward the remaining liabilities over the next 40 years.

Another long-popular provision would create postal-specific assumptions about the demographics of the USPS workforce to prevent possible overpayment into the agency’s Federal Employees Retirement System account. If any surplus were detected after the new formula was made, it would be gradually refunded to the agency.

As the last iteration did, the House bill avoided a previously contentious issue of reducing mail delivery to five days each week. Postmaster General Megan Brennan has dropped the call for five-day mail delivery from the agency’s list of demands for postal reform.

The bill again calls for USPS to cut its board of directors from nine Senate-confirmed members to five. The board currently has no confirmed members. It would also clarify the Postal Regulatory Commission’s authority to levy fines against the Postal Service. It would give the PRC until 2018 to review how the pricing structure should be set going forward, a study the regulators are currently undertaking. The bill would compel the PRC to consider factors such as financial stability, customer experience and delivery timelines in making its determinations.

The measure attempts to convert to-the-door delivery to curbside or clustered drop offs, requiring incremental conversions for businesses. For residential addresses, door-to-door delivery would cease only if 40 percent of the impacted residents sign off. As a new provision, new home addresses can still receive door delivery if their neighbors already do.

In a potential victory for workers, non-bargaining, non-supervisory employees would gain appeal rights with the Merit Systems Protection Board under the bill.

“This bipartisan measure will make the policy changes that are most urgently needed to put the Postal Service on sound and sustainable long-term financial footing,” the cosponsors said in a joint statement. “This collaborative reform effort places the Postal Service on a path toward a viable future."

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association President Richard Thissen took issue with the Medicare integration portion of the bills saying it would unfairly place “the full burden of balancing the Postal Service’s books on the backs of 76,000 postal retirees and their survivors.” Instead, Thissen suggested, Congress should provide postal retirees with a 60 or 90-day opt out window. 

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