FEHBP Premiums: Feds Bite Dog Story!

Monday - 11/15/2010, 4:00am EST

As Americans we believe that all men and (since 1920 when they got the right to vote) all women are created equal. You can look it up!

Equal, that is, until it comes to health insurance premiums for nearly 9 million current and retired feds and their families, including some ex-spouses. In the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, where premiums are concerned, all men and women are not so equal. In fact some are more equal than others.

Let's go to the tape:

If you are single and work for GSA, Interior, Defense, CIA or the Library of Congress and you pick the popular Blue Cross program to cover you next year, your premium will be $1,360 if you are in the basic option or $2,250 if you pick the standard option. The family premium if you are with most other agencies, Agriculture, IRS, Justice, Transportation, etc., for example, will be $3,190 for Blue Cross basic or $5,180 for the standard option. The government share of your premium will be much higher. But...

If you are a single U.S. Postal Service employee, your Blue Cross premiums next year will be $840 for the Blue Cross basic option, and $1,660 for the standard option. The family premium for postal workers in the basic option will be $1,980 and for those in the standard option it will be $3,870. All are substantially less than their colleagues outside the postal service will pay regardless of which plan they pick. How come?

Can you say: Union contract?

Unlike most of the rest of the federal service, the majority of rank-and-file postal workers belong to a union. Most white collar federal workers are represented by unions, but most do not belong to the union or pay dues. Most postal workers are in one of three unions, the APWU, NALC or Mail Handlers union. All three of them have their health plans which are also popular with, and open to, nonpostal workers.

Back when the Post Office Department was converted to a quasi-government corporation - the USPS - Congress gave unions the right to bargain over wages. The highly-effective, politically well-connected unions also convinced the USPS to pay a larger share of the total health premium in all plans, than other government agencies are required to pay.

The average salary in the in the Postal Service is lower than in most federal agencies. And postal workers don't get locality pay differentials. A postal worker in a small, low-wage town can do very well compared to some of the nonfederal neighbors. But in cities like San Francisco, New York, Houston or Washington, many postal workers struggle compared to their federal and nonfederal neighbors. And the work is often hard, tedious and dangerous. In fact the USPS is one of the top federal agencies in accidents - as in dog-bites which are not a joke - year after year.

Compared To What...

So what health insurance premiums will you pay next year as a federal worker or retiree compared to what your colleagues in the USPS will pay? To check it out, click here.

Open Season Options

This morning at 10 a.m. on WFED's For Your Benefit radio program, hosts Bob Leins and Tammy Flanagan talk to John Patrick and Jeff Goldman with Kaiser Permanente's highly-rated FEHBP plan. If you have questions about open season or HMOs, listen if you can and call in if you like.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

"Actor Dick Van Dyke says that porpoises once saved him when he dozed off on his surfboard and ended up out of sight of land." LiveScience reports in an interview on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, the 84-year-old said that he stopped surfing after that incident.


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