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Federal Employees News Digest : Oct. 1, 2012
October 1, 2012 Vol. 62, No. 12 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com the National Treasury Employees Union, agreed. "While this increase is below the aver- ages facing private-sector workers, high- er premiums are difficult to absorb in these tough economic times," Kelley said in a statement. "Any increase is hard for federal employees given the freeze on federal pay." "Despite what some politicians and commentators would lead you to believe," Kelley added, "federal employ- ees do contribute to their health insur- ance costs and those contributions rise year after year." NArFe: Some premiums will soar "[Most] premiums are fairly low---it's comparable to the private sector here, at the lowest increase it's been in three years, with 3.4 the average rise this year," Jessica Klement, a spokesperson for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association told FEND. "Blue Cross/Blue Shield---which has most of our people here---is, I believe, going up 0.4 and 0.8 percent for their respective plans---that's really low for health care insurance." "However, this does mean less money for feds in their paychecks come Jan. 1, because they are still under a pay freeze," Klement added. "So, that's health insur- ance going up while paychecks stay the same---which is not what you want to see in a struggling economy." There were numerous plans that, as indicated by the averages, showed little change. These were all fee-for-service plans, Dave Snell, NARFE federal ben- efits director, told FEND. "For Mail Handlers Consumer option, for instance, the cost went up $18 for self only and $42 for family, but the [National Association of Letter Carriers] plan went down a buck or so." But, Snell cautioned, HMOs some- times went up far more than the aver- ages cited in the OPM numbers. "Some of them went up considerably," Snell said, noting that premiums for cer- tain HMO plans increased significantly in Arizona and California. "OPM is providing the average increase for the program---and that is good, that they are keeping the aver- ages of the program kind of low. But it doesn't do much for people in individual plans where there are increases that are considerably more," he said. "Everybody needs to look at their planned premiums for next year---now---to make sure they can afford them or whether they need to look around for another plan." Snell reminds FEHBP participants that usually if their plan's price went up unacceptably, they can find another plan that will come in at a more accept- able price. "The whole foundation and premise for the federal program here is that there are choices---and every year you can look around to find something that fits your medical situation and pocketbook, something best for you," Snell noted. He added that in some cases, some sub- scribers may have to absorb a markedly higher premium, depending on their specific health care needs. "Keeping these premium costs down, generally, is very helpful," he said. "Keep in mind we are talking about employees and retirees---8.5 million [retirees] com- pared with over 2 million active federal employees. This affects a lot of people." Snell added that in his role at NARFE he sees recent changes in FEHBP and other health insurance schemes that are helping participants in other ways. He pointed in particular to Affordable Care Act, which has permitted adult children up to 26 years of age to remain under parents' family health insurance plans. This year's open season for health, dental, and vision insurance and flexible spending accounts will be held from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10. For more, go to: www.opm.gov/insure/ health/rates/12rates.asp. Friend to feds departs Senate Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who served as a strong supporter of the fed- eral workforce during his 22 years in the Senate, last month appropriately led his final hearing examining the future of that workforce. Akaka, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs sub- committee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce and the District of Columbia, led his last final scheduled hearing of the panel Sept. 19. Akaka, who also served 14 years in the House of Representatives before being appointed to the Senate after the death of Sen. Spark Matsunaga, last year announced he would not run for re-election. During the hearing, titled "Investing in an Effective Federal Workforce," Akaka looked back at as his work on the work- force panel. "Over the years, I have often said that I believe that the federal government, as the nation's largest employer, has a respon- sibility to lead by example, to be a model employer," Akaka said in his opening state- ment. "It is my hope that the work of this subcommittee has moved us toward that goal." continued from page 1 continued on page 4 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com. As expected, the Senate approved short-term legislation to fund the government through March 27, 2013. the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2013 continuing resolution (H.J. res. 117) Sept. 22 on a vote of 62 to 30 before adjourning until after the election. the bill, which heads off the specter of a government shutdown, was waiting the president’s signature at press time.
Sept. 24, 2012
Oct. 8, 2012