Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Health Insurance

This would normally put tagged as Just My Opinion (JMO) but this is personal. It's about the heatlhcare reform work by Congress, but it's about my health insurance, the Federal Employees Health Benenfit (FEHB) plan and program. It's similar to a health insurance exchange but overseen by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and only for active and retired federal employees and Congressional representatives (both houses) and their staff.

It's great health insurance with over two dozen companies offering over 50 different plans, from individuals to large families. The OPM sends the requirements, minimum coverage, options and the expected price range, and companies submit bids. If they pass criteria, they're included in the program. They can't change the plan or the rates during the year. They can't deny anyone who wants their plan no matter their health or pre-existing conditions.

That's the deal. If a company wants in, they agree to the terms. It's a great model for a public option. But it's not the public option. It's been with the federal employees for decades now and it works very well. There are 8+ million enrolled in the program, half active and half retired employees. The companies have long praised the plan as affordable, fair and even profitable.

But it's not the choice to change it, so those in Congress who want to change it, I say,

Congress, leave it alone!

It's my health insurance plan you're screwing with. I earned it. I deserve. I don't want it changed beyond how it works. I don't want it expanded to include more potential customers. I don't want it converted or moved to a wider health insurance exchange.

So, why the worry? Well, this was sent to retired federal employees.

"During the week of September 21, the Senate Committee on Finance began considering over 500 amendments to their health care reform bill, including two which threaten the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

First, Ranking Committee member, Charles Grassley, R-IA, proposed that federal workers and Members of Congress be required to join state-based health exchanges to purchase health insurance instead of FEHBP. The amendment approved by the committee was changed to make enrollment in the exchanges optional – rather than mandatory – for federal employees and legislators.

However, Senator Grassley’s staff has said they still plan to push the stronger language. The Grassley amendment would effectively end FEHBP and require federal workers to join the health exchanges. You worked too hard for your FEHBP health benefits and we cannot allow them to be taken away.

Second, Senator Ron Wyden, D-OR, may offer an amendment which would open the FEHBP to certain low-income non-federal civilians. While NARFE supports access to comprehensive health care for all Americans, we insist that any proposal to open the FEHBP to the public must include separate risk pools, which the Wyden amendment does not contain. For that reason, NARFE opposes the amendment. Risk pools are used to calculate health plan premiums based on the cost of providing coverage to enrollees. Without the opportunity to study non-federal enrollees in a separate FEHBP risk pool, the introduction of any new community into the FEHBP could result in unanticipated premium increases.

Even if these amendments are not approved by the Finance Committee, we are concerned that they could be added to the legislation at another point in the process. For that reason, I ask you to urge your two Senators to oppose any amendment to health care reform legislation that would force federal workers and annuitants into the exchange system and/or would open FEHBP to non-federal civilians without a separate risk pool."

The purpose of this threat by Senator Grassley and Wyden is simple. They're playing chicken with President Obama and the other Democrats in Congress about the public option. And the government employees will pay the price of who wins. That's something I don't like and won't stand for because they're playing chicken with me too and the other 8 million of us.

So, to Senator Wyden and Grassley, don't play chicken with government employees and retirees. We're not your political fodder, and we can and will fight back, now and in 2010. I don't want my health insurance premiums to double or worse to cover your political ass and mouth (often mistaken by you which is speaking).

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