Time is Running Out for FEHBP Dependents

Tuesday - 6/15/2010, 4:00am EDT

Political agendas and extended election-year "vacations" may have permanently derailed a plan that would have reduced health premiums for feds with dependent children in their mid-20s.

Under current rules most health plans (including those in the FEHBP) drop dependent children from their family group plan after they become age 22. The President's health care reform law requires most health plans to extend that coverage through age 26 starting in September. But because the FEHBP is a special, separate program, which covers members of Congress too, it will not make the 22-to-26 change until the new contract year starts in January.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) represents tens of thousands of federal workers and retirees. Last month he introduced a special bill that would give fed premium payers the same break by raising the age of coverage to 26. Upon enactment. The catch is that enactment, always a long shot, just got longer.

The Cardin amendment came up for a Senate vote last week. And even though it got 57 votes in the 100 member Senate, it lost because of the sometimes nutty rules the Senate uses from time to time. The amendment in this case required a super majority, so the 57 for and 42 against wasn't enough.

The Cardin plan faced an uphill fight from the start. And the hill is getting steeper each day.

This is an election year and all House seats, and about one third of those in the Senate, are up for grabs. Normally incumbents keep getting reelected. Especially in "safe" districts that have been gerrymandered so that one political party tends to dominate. But the anti-establishment, anti-Washington mood in the country appears to be strong. That means politicians need more time off, officially called something like a District Work Period, to meet and greet.

The Senate will be gone from August 7 to September 14 for its summer recess. That, of course, will follow an extended break of a couple of weeks around July 4th.

Lack of time isn't the only problem. Congress has a full plate, ranging from the Gulf oil spill, to what-next from North Korea and Iran. Various connect-the-dots-hearings will be held on a variety of subjects which don't include things like the dependent children of federal and postal workers.

It is still possible, here on June 15 even with the congressional vacation schedule, that it may happen. That feds with mid-20s dependent children will be spared the burden of paying premiums for separate policies for their kids.

But given real-world, and political realities, the odds on this long-shot are getting longer each day.

First Pay, Pensions?

A Florida-based federal retiree says active and retired workers need to watch each others backs: As in opposing any pay freeze or tampering with federal retirement benefits. He writes:

  • " I read your Monday column about a possible federal pay freeze with great interest. It looks like some of your listeners missed some of your shows. If they were avid listeners, like lots of us are, they would know that unless active and retired feds stick together and fight for what we earned, the retirement they think they are going to get may not be there when they retire. Many federal retirees will only get about 1/3 of the Social Security they worked for and earned. When they retire, they will start to pay their share of their health care insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) with after-tax, not pre-tax dollars; and they may be subject to Social Security rules that discriminate against retired federal and state employees, their spouses and survivors.

    "As for freezing salaries, they seem to forget that these are the salaries of the civilian employees helping us fight 2 wars, and a 'war' in the Gulf of Mexico. 'Make them sweat, I am not sure you want them to.

    "Also, they must not have heard of the Debt Commission nor have seen checked out the warning at: www.narfe.org" Marc Harris, Windemere, Florida

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

"One-in-five parents regret the names they've chosen for their children," according to a survey by Britain's Bounty.com. Many say they're now distressed over the unusual or oddly spelled names they'd chosen.


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