The main congressional advocate of postal reform in recent years, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., has introduced a new bill (S-2051) that contains many of the same proposals of the past, although tweaked to take into account objections that have helped doom the prior efforts.
It addresses a major drain on postal finances by stretching out over 40 years the obligation, created in a 2006 reform law, that USPS pre-fund its future costs for retiree health insurance over 10 years. USPS has not been able to make those payments in recent years, which are a major contributor to its ongoing reported financial losses and its accumulated debt since they remain on the books as an obligation.
Also like the prior versions, it would set up a separate health insurance program covering only postal employees and retirees, while requiring the latter group to take Medicare coverage, including in its voluntary prescription drug program. That in effect would shift certain costs away from the Postal Service plan and onto Medicare, which is the first payer when an enrollee also has other health insurance.
It would further address the contentious issues of downsizing by imposing a five-year ban on closing post offices and requiring that afterward, it go through a public input period and fully consider other options such as reducing office hours instead, before closing any. Similarly, there would be a two-year ban on further closings of mail processing facilities.
In addition: current service standards would have to be maintained for five years, which could effectively block any moves to reduce mail delivery days from six to five or lower; USPS would be encouraged to move toward delivery to central points such as neighborhood cluster boxes rather than door-to-door; arbitrators in contract disputes would be allowed to consider the agency’s finances as part of their decisions; certain mid-level managers who currently lack rights to appeal personnel actions to the MSPB would gain them; and there would be a government-wide reform of injury compensation policies designed to move recipients to regular retirement benefits once they reach eligibility.