Monday, December 14, 2009

The status of the great compromise

Last week, Sen. Majority Leader announced that he had submitted to CBO for scoring a great compromise that would expand Medicare and various other programs and would create a parallel FEHB program under OPM supervision in lieu of a public plan option. The details of the great compromise still are under wraps. The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that "Senate Democrats signaled their intention to back away from a plan to expand Medicare [a program facing imminent bankruptcy], in a bid to break a deepening impasse on the health-overhaul bill."
The Wall Street Journal report does not discuss a plan B. However, the Senate Democrat caucus will be meeting with President Obama tomorrow after which more information may become available.

The Federal Times published a report on the predicted impact of the great compromise's parallel FEHB program on OPM. Bear in mind that I call it a parallel FEHB program because I am certain that there would continue to be a separate risk pool for federal and postal employees and annuitants. According to the article

David Ermer, general counsel for the Association of Federal Health Organizations, a partnership of unions and health care plans serving federal employees, thinks it would only require a few hundred more employees. Ermer said his group has not taken a position on the proposal, but he thinks OPM could handle it.
I take this apparently contrarian approach because OPM is able to administer the FEHB Program with a relatively small workforce. The beauty of the FEHB Program is that in contrast to Medicare the FEHB Program is not heavily regulated and it relies on market forces and competitition. OPM has put up other programs in this decade such as the successful Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. I think that OPM's keep it simple approach could work with the parallel program too. But that's up to Congress, not OPM.

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