Congressional Health Benefits Could Soon Change
Senators debating health-care reform legislation have unanimously approved a proposal requiring members of Congress and their staffs to obtain health insurance through new state-based purchasing exchanges set up by the health-care reform bill under consideration. Lawmakers and their staffs could no longer buy health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program beginning in 2013 if the proposal survives the final health-care bill passed by Congress.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the amendment introduced by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday night, just hours after the government announced an average 8.8 percent increase in the cost of health insurance provided through FEHBP.
It's a watered-down version of Grassley's original proposal, which would have effectively ended FEHBP by requiring all federal government employees to seek health care through their home state exchanges. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) modified the proposal, making the FEHBP an option for all federal employees, but Grassley changed it again and proposed the amendment approved last night.
Currently all full- and part-time employees of the executive, judicial and legislative branches and the Postal Service are eligible to enroll in FEHBP.
Regardless of Tuesday's approval, it's unclear if the bill will survive a full Senate vote or the final House-Senate compromise.
“The more that Congress experiences the laws we pass, the better the laws are likely to be,” Grassley said during debate.
“My interest in having Members of Congress participate in the exchange is consistent with my long-held view that Congress should live under the same laws it passes for the rest of the country."
Nancy Kichak, the associate director of the Office of Personnel Management who oversees FEHBP, said her staff remains focused on operating the program no matter the ongoing Congressional debate.
"We right now are focused on taking care of our business and our folks who are covered. We’re not following that debate," she said Tuesday.
The new exchange model under consideration by the Finance Committee is modeled on FEHBP and would give participants options similar to those offered to federal employees.
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Read The Post's Health-Care Reform coverage for more updates
| September 30, 2009; 2:27 PM ET
Categories: Congress, Health Care, Workplace Issues
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