Will a proposed new separate health plan for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and retirees and their spouses and dependents prompt major changes for the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program for all other federal employees?
A new study by the Heritage Foundation says a postal “reform” bill in Congress would mean extra costs for retirees in the federal health plan and for American taxpayers who subsidize about 75 percent of the premiums paid by postal workers.
Heritage is a D.C.-based conservative think tank. In the past, it has supplied much of the data to media outlets that translated into news stories and editorials about vastly overpaid federal employees.
What makes this report solid, in the eyes of many, is its author, Walton J. Francis. He’s well known to federal and postal workers and retirees as the editor of CHECKBOOK’s Guide to Federal Health Plans for Federal Employees & Annuitants. Originally, a Readers Digest-sized book in print form, the Guide is now available online. Many federal agencies subscribe to it for their employees. Francis retired from the Department of Health and Human Services and is considered, by many, to be the authority on the government’s in-house health insurance program. Lots of people consider it the best employer-sponsored health program in the nation. It currently covers nearly 9 million current and retired feds, their current and former spouses and dependents.
The in-depth (14 page) report is entitled “Postal Service Health Benefits and FEHBP: The Urgent Case for Getting Reform Right.” The “reform” in the title stands for the pending Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 5714) before Congress. Enactment of the plan, Francis says, would mean “shifting postal retirees’ primary health care coverage from the FEHBP to Medicare.” While proponents of the reform say it is a “consensus proposal for integrate the FEHBP with Medicare, it is not. The proposal’s impact on postal retirees and taxpayers alike could be substantial.” The legislation would force postal retirees and their spouses to purchase Medicare Part B in order to keep their federal health benefits. Currently, there are about 93,000 postal retirees 65 and older who would be part of the Medicare Part B mandate. While the legislation would initially reduce Part B premiums for postal retirees (USPS would pay a decreasing portion of the premiums the first three years), Francis says that over a 10-year period, the out-of-pocket costs to postal retirees would be “more than $15,000 (twice as much for married couples) in new premium obligations.”
If the reform becomes reality for the Postal Service — one of the largest federal operations — many believe the next target group would be all federal employees and retirees.
So what’s in this reform package for you?
Today at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show we’ll talk with Francis about his report and the danger he believes is in the reform package for both postal and nonpostal workers and for everyone in the FEHBP. If you have questions for him, please send them to me before showtime (that’s 10 a.m. EDT) at: email@example.com or call us at 202-465-3080
If you can’t listen the show will be archived later today on the Your Turn page. You can listen live streaming at FederalNewsRadio.com or on 1500 AM in the Washington metro area.