New Legislation Introduced to Protect Health Benefits During Shutdowns

How does health insurance work for federal workers during government shutdowns? The 35-day shutdown that started December 2018 and ended January this year underscored the precarious position of government employees during times of uncertainty.

Feds had trouble obtaining health coverage for new dependents because some agencies were not taking new enrollments or changes to enrollments. Some reports noted that employees were at risk of losing their dental, vision, and long-term care insurance if they did not pay their premiums after the two or three pay periods that coverage applied during the shutdown.

That’s why on April 2, lawmakers across the aisle in the House and Senate introduced two bills each to address this.

The Ensuring FEHBP Coverage During Shutdowns Act would allow employees who experience qualifying life events during a shutdown, such as having a child, to immediately enroll or change the enrollment of individuals in a health benefits plan. The Ensuring FEDVIP and FLTCIP Coverage During Shutdowns Act would allow for continued dental, vision and long-term care insurance during any government shutdown time period.

Both bills have the backing of the American Federation of Government Employees, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, according to the press release. This is a bill with bipartisan backing.

The rhetoric during the most recent shutdown emphasized how many feds had to put financial plans on hold and even take on gigs to make ends meet. An impact report showed that 38 percent stated that their home ownership plans were put on hold because of the shutdown, and 60 percent of federal workers stated that they had to cut back on groceries and other essentials as a result of the shutdown.

The members released the following joint statement on all bills:

“Government shutdowns place thousands of federal employees and their families in very difficult positions.  While we truly hope to avoid shutdowns in the future, the measures we are introducing today would ensure that federal employees could enroll their newborn babies in their health insurance plans and that they would not lose their dental, vision, or long-term care insurance if another funding lapse occurs.  We owe it to our civil servants to mitigate the impact of funding lapses over which they have no control.”

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