Why should a federal family of two have to pay the same health insurance premiums as a family of five or 15?
On the other hand, why should a couple whose children are grown and gone still have to pay the same premiums as people producing and protecting a large brood?
Why should older people who have survived all that life have to pay the same premiums as higher-risk younger people for whom Jackass: The Movie is their blueprint for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? While they tend to cost more in most cases, many seniors say that the lifestyle choices of younger people put them at greater risk.
Why indeed? It’s the risk pool, stupid! That’s what we’ve been told.
For decades, the standard answer has been that the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan is a group plan. As in G-R-O-U-P. Everybody in the pool. The same pool. The options are self-only, or self-plus-family.
Older couples past their child-bearing years paid the same premium as couples with lots of kids if they were in the same plans. Younger, generally, healthier workers helped subsidize couples having kids — with their attendant bills — and people over 65 whose health costs are generally higher. One caveat: FEHBP retirees with Medicare are often the cheapest to insure because Medicare (also a federal entitlement program) pays first.
So, GROUP plan. Group rates.
For decades, the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that runs the massive FEHBP program, resisted the self-plus-one concept. Now OPM is trying to persuade Congress to implement it. Perhaps offer it as early as this November when the FEHBP and Benefits Open Season begins, should Congress act. That’s the period when you pick your health plan (and some other optional benefits) for the 2014 year.
So how is self-plus-one going to work? And what’s OPM doing to implement a law, passed last year, that allows selected workers to take phased retiremen? The idea is that they would work several days a week, spending part of their time mentoring younger employees and those who will take their place. It is a dream-not-yet-come-true for many feds.
So, how’s it going: Today at 10 a.m. our Your Turn radio show, guests are Jessica Klement, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees, and Stephen Losey, senior writer for the Federal Times. They are going to cover the legislative waterfront, starting with the self-plus-one health plan option. We’ll also be checking out everything from phased retirement to what many consider the biggest threat to federal workers — the chained CPI.
Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.
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