Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekend update

The end of the federal fiscal year is tomorrow and Congress has not reached agreement on a continuing resolution beyond that date.  Here's a link to the most recent New York Times article. Here's OPM's guidance for employees on FEHBP coverage in the event of a shutdown furlough:
1.  Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employee Health Benefits
(FEHB) program during a shutdown furlough if the agency is unable to make its
premium payments on time?
A. Yes, the employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the
premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee
share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay
2. What happens if an employee wants to terminate Federal Employee Health Benefits
(FEHB) coverage while in a nonpay status in order to avoid the expense?
A. Unlike other types of non-pay status, employees in a non-pay status due to a lapse of
appropriations (shutdown furlough) will not have the opportunity to terminate or cancel
FEHB coverage. The employee will remain covered; the enrollee share of the FEHB
premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status. 
The Federal Times came out with an article on OPM's press release about 2014 FEHBP rates and benefits. Plans, e.g., GEHA, continue to release more detailed information about theie 2014 benefits on their websites.

The New York Times is reporting this evening that OPM will announce tomorrow that the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has contracted with the agency to offer a multi-state plan in the health insurance exchanges of thirty states and the District of Columbia in 2014.  According to the article
Under the 2010 health care law, the federal government was supposed to sign contracts with at least two multistate plans. But the application from Blue Cross and Blue Shield was the only one approved. Five other companies expressed interest and may file applications in the future, federal officials said. By 2017, at least two multistate plans are supposed to be available in each state.
Of course, there has been quite a kerfuffle over whether members of Congress and their official staffs would receive a government contribution for exchange coverage in 2014.  OPM issued a proposed rule that would provide such a subsidy. A final rule is pending at OMB. The FEHBlog has been curious about Sen. Chuck Grassley's response to this situation as Sen. Grassley proposed moving these 11,000 folks from the FEHBP to the exchanges. The answer came in a Roll Call article on Friday. Sen. Grassley explains that the OPM rule matches his legislative intent. Roll Call explains that
Mark Harkins at the Georgetown University Government Affairs Institute has more details on how the language written into the ACA ended up dropping members of Congress and their staffs from qualifying for employer contributions. He writes that there were actually dueling provisions to force members of Congress and their staffers onto the exchanges. There was the measure from Grassley in the Finance Committee — which was more detailed and maintained employer contribution — and an amendment from Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which also marked up a health care bill.  Coburn’s language, as written, prevented members and staff from receiving contributions. It appears, based on text, Reid chose Coburn’s language over Grassley’s.
And the beat goes on.

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