Many federal employees and retirees alike are concerned about being forced out of the FEHB program and into local health care exchanges that are mandated by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. I’m not sure why it was called the Affordable Care Act when in reality insurance costs have already increased considerably across all sectors since the law was first passed. How can you insure 30 million more Americans, allow adult children to stay on their parent’s coverage until age 26, dramatically expand Medicaid coverage, and force insurers to accept anyone for coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions and not expect costs to skyrocket. Plus they took over 500 million dollars from Medicare that many seniors rely on to fund the new Affordable Health Care Act. It takes a huge amount of money to do that and it has to come from somewhere. Whether private insurers or government eventually places all coverage under a single government payer system costs will by necessity increase dramatically and there would be rationing of care as many predicted.
Many suggest that even after full implementation of the Affordable Care Act there will still be 30 million American’s without health care coverage, although a different group than the 30 million that were not covered prior to this new program. The new law is forcing many companies to not cover spouses who work elsewhere and to convert employees to part time because they can’t afford the costs and penalties. This may, in part, be the reason why the majority of all new jobs created over the past 5 years are part time or lower paying service jobs!
The Legislative branch will be forced out of the FEHB program and into local exchanges this year. Many are asking why the federal sector’s Executive Branch shouldn’t follow suit and enter local exchanges like the rest of the county. The FEHB program has served both active federal employees and retirees for generations and I personally would prefer retaining our existing coverage. I’m sure most reading this column would agree.
Now that the Legislative Branch (Congress) is forced to enter local exchanges outside of the FEHB program there will be over 34,000 less participants in our FEHB program sharing the cost of our insurance coverage. Less participants in any plan result in higher overall costs for participating members. They are chipping away at our benefits and possibly targeting us for inclusion down the road, only time will tell.
The good news is that organizations like NARFE and others are lobbying Congress to continue FEHB coverage. Also, the 34,000 less participants is a very small percentage of the total covered under the FEHB so the bite won’t initially be much if anything at first. Also, there is still talk of adding Plus 1 coverage which would lower costs for many if not most retirees and employed empty nesters.
Insurance costs in general have been skyrocketing this past year. Our home owners insurance increased 20%, auto insurance 35%, and our local school taxes may be increased by as much s 33%. I’m not sure what the new FEHB premiums will be but my guess is that they aren’t going down! I looked at my insurance policies to determine where the increases came from and discovered that our auto insurance bodily injury coverage increased 37% alone and that too may be a function of the new Affordable care Act. New FEHB rates will be announced soon and only time will tell if we will be forced to abandon the FEHB program. Thankfully NARFE is fighting the good fight and if you aren’t a member consider joining. They need all the funds they can get to lobby Congress and protect our benefits.
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