FEHBP Dependent Care, Tick, Tock!

Friday - 8/6/2010, 4:00am EDT

Many feds with dependent children over age 22 have their eyes on the calendar and their writing hand on their checkbook.

In this case the eyes probably do not have it.

Under current law, plans in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) cover dependent children only up to their 22nd birthday. After a short grace period the dependent must find other coverage. While some colleges offer low-premium plans, many feds complain they aren't low enough. Or aren't available.

By contrast, President Obama's health care reform requires health plans to begin offering dependent care coverage, up to age 26, in September. But because the FEHBP is a separate program, by congressional design and intent, only Congress can change its rules.

Beginning in January, 2011, all plans in the FEHBP must offer family plan coverage that includes dependent children up to age 26. But it's August.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has a lot of federal workers and retirees in his state. In June he introduced a bill that would boost coverage to age 26 in the FEHBP. But as we noted at the time, it is one thing to get a bill introduced. It is quite another, especially in an election-year like this, to get it considered much less passed and signed into law.

Cardin's bill did pass the Senate by a 57 to 42 vote. But because of some odd rules, the proposal required a super-majority which 57 to 42 ain't.

The reality is this: Congress takes a lot of breaks. A lot.

Granted many of them are to go back home to service (as in providing constituent relief or counseling) as many voters as possible. But when they are there, they aren't here. The House has gone (although it may come back sooner than expected) and the Senate is due to leave town today (although in fact most took off Thursday afternoon). And the original plan was not to return until September 14.

The congressional schedule allows more time for politicking, but less time for legislating. When we last brought this up, we were (some people thought) about to go to war with Iran or North Korea. The the Gulf oil spill was still headline news.

While those threats appear to have scaled back, with Congress it's always something!

And in this case the something is job security. As in getting re-elected.

So keep hoping if it makes you feel better. There will be a lame duck session. But even if legislative lightening strikes it would advance the new higher coverage date by a couple of weeks to a month.

Meantime, keep that checkbook handy until the new FEHBP rules take effect in the new year.

Also, make sure your offspring eats healthy, wears a seat belt and doesn't skateboard during an electrical storm. They don't call 'em dependents for nothing.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

Sunday is "Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors' Porch Night".




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