A bill introduced in the House on Tuesday would let the Office of Personnel Management extend health insurance to adult children of federal employees this year, as Federal News Radio has been telling you.
Under health care reform legislation, benefits must be available until the child turns 26, but the law left a gap in coverage between September 2010 and January 2011.
Ed Zurndorfer, Registered Employee Benefits Consultant, explained that, even if the bill passes tomorrow, there could be problems and children of FEHBP participants should know their options.
“Congress can pass it, but the fact of the matter is — will the plans be able to implement it right away? My suggestion to parents who have young adults of this age is that they look into the temporary continuation coverage, because the first month is free.”
As it stands now, a child of an FEHBP member can pay for coverage if he or she desires.
“The employee has the option of having the child stay on the FEHB plan; however, the parent or the child will have to pay for the full coverage. Right now employees and retirees pay 28 percent of the total premiums and the government pays the remaining 78 percent of the total premiums. Under a so-called temporary continuation of coverage, a young adult who reaches the age of 22 can stay on the plan for up to three years, but must pay the full premium . . . plus a two percent administrative charge. That can be a pretty hefty amount of money.”
This is why Zurndorfer said, between now and January, a 22-year-old might want to explore the option of what is called a ‘bridge plan’.
“In the meantime, they could look around for a bridge plan. [These] offer temporary coverage for six to eight months in which a child would have full health insurance coverage, pay a fairly decent amount. It might cost anywhere between $100 to $150 a month, but they will have full coverage, especially for things like major medical — if they have to go to the hospital for a substantial period of time — you want to be covered for that. Then, come January, they can join the federal plan.”
Above all else, FEHBP members should remember that, while their children might be covered for longer, there are now extra costs associated with this option.
“I know a lot of federal employees are excited about this idea of adding their young adults to the plans — the 22 to 26-year-olds — but we’re all going to be paying for this. Anytime you add more people to the pool, insurance companies are going to raise their premiums for everybody. They’re doing this actuarially in order to make a profit. So, every federal employee who has self and family coverage — two people or three people or 15 people in a family — everybody’s going to be paying more in premiums for any particular plan. It’s not going to a cure-all. We’re all going to pay for it.”
Earlier this week, Mike Causey went to the Office of Personnel Management where he talked with OPM Director John Berry and Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service.
Berry explained the purpose surrounding this week’s events:
“On two fronts, it’s critical. One is the morale of our workforce. It’s important every once in awhile for people to pat themselves on the back. Federal employees do a great job every day for their neighbors across the country serving the public. . . . Our federal employees are on the front lines every day helping to improve the quality of life in our nation. . . . Also, it’s a chance to help educate the public. Many Americans only hear about public servants when it’s election time, and then they only hear through the lens of the whipping boy, where people sort of gang up on them or use them as the easy target. . . . So, part of this week is to help elevate the public awareness about what civil servants and public servants do.”
Stier said it’s also about thanks and getting younger Americans interested in public service:
“You have to thank the people who are doing great work — our civil servants. We also have to tell the American people what it is that their public servants are doing for them and for our country. I think there are a lot of things to be extraordinarily proud of that we get to celebrate this week. I think we’re doing very well. We’re trying new things. We have a partnership with Junior Achievement, where we’re going to have a lot of high school kids coming in and job shadowing at federal agencies. This is an event that takes place across the country. . . . We feel optimistic that there’s a great story to tell and this is the right week to tell it.”