Federal employees say no to benefits change

Posted: Sunday, April 30, 2000

One of the issues little reported by the popular press is a proposal to open the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), covering nine million current and retired federal employees (and their families), to Medical Savings Accounts. The National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NRFE), of which I am a member, has been warning Congress and the public of the likely, although perhaps unintended, consequences of this proposal.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the introduction of Medical Savings Accounts into the FEHBP will result in nearly a billion dollars in new taxpayer costs. Beyond new taxpayer costs, increases in the federal employee/annuitant enrollee's share of health insurance premiums are also anticipated as a consequence of Medical Savings Accounts.

Current and retired federal employees are united in opposition to section 503 of S. 1344, now in the U.S. House-Senate conference committee debating managed care reform. This is the section that would require Medical Savings Accounts in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. There is no known reason for taxpayers and FEHBP enrollees to bear new and higher costs for these controversial MSA insurance plans which have little appeal to anyone other than the marketing insurance companies - and certain members of Congress.

Large campaign contributors promoting Medical Savings Accounts contend that these plans are necessary to enhance choice in the FEHBP. With more than 280 different plans this major group insurance program already provides more health care choices than any other health insurance program in America. More importantly, the most popular FEHBP plans empower enrollees to select their own health-care providers - including specialists. This federal program is a success story. It's a group health program that's neither broken nor broke. It does not need fixing. NARFE will continue to oppose forcing MSAs into the FEHBP. Concerned taxpayers should join us.

Marie DarlinJuneau

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