When Senator Tom Carper unveiled his latest postal reform bill, one of the more controversial items was the provision that established a separate health insurance pool for current and former postal workers, along with the requirement that postal retirees enroll in Medicare when they become eligible. At the time, the National Association of Letter Carriers President Fred Rolando released a statement calling the bill “a good place to begin the conversation” about preserving the USPS. Rolando noted, however, that the bill included “several provisions we cannot support and raises a number of serious concerns for letter carriers and the larger federal employee community”.
Rolando’s statement didn’t specify which provisions he had a problem with, but it’s clear now that the redesign of the health insurance program wasn’t one of them. A little noticed, unsigned article in the union’s official magazine, the Postal Record, makes it clear that the union whole heartedly supports the change. It even quotes Rolando as saying “It’s a proposal that NALC was instrumental in developing”.
Although work remains to be done on key issues, such as adjusting postage rates and service standards,there is broad agreement on the most important financial problem facing the Postal Service: how to alleviate the crushing burden to pre-fund decades of future retiree health benefits. The industry has coalesced around the idea of full Medicare integration for health plans that cover postal employees and postal annuitants in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP)—that is, implementing a requirement that postal annuitants enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when they reach age 65, and requiring FEHBP plans covering postal employees to adopt drug plans made possible by the Medicare Part D program.
This approach would not only largely resolve the pre-funding requirement that is hindering USPS finances, it also would reduce FEHBP health insurance rates for all active and retired letter carriers as part of the bargain.
“It’s a proposal that NALC was instrumental in developing,” President Rolando said. Indeed, the basic outlines of the proposal were carefully crafted by the NALC and the USPS by the health care task force established by the 2013 Das award. “We have agreed on the major provisions of this plan, but we are taking a cautious approach to it to make sure that any legislation takes into account the best interests of the Postal Service, letter carriers and other postal workers.”
According to the proposal, the Office of Personnel Management would create a postal-only health benefit program within FEHBP. These postal plans would be rated and priced separately from the plans covering other federal employees, with rules on Medicare enrollment that would apply only to the postal plans. Postal retirees covered by these postal plans would be required to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when they reach age 65. In addition, the postal FEHBP program would embed low-cost drugs made possible by the Medicare Part D program.
With the annual benefits open season affecting FEHB under way, a misunderstanding seems to be continuing in the federal workforce regarding Affordable Care Act insurance plans. So-called Obamacare has no impact on eligibility for FEHB coverage except that members of Congress and their personal staff
From USPS News Link:
Postal Service employees will be able to download health benefits guides from LiteBlue during this year’s open season, which begins Nov. 10.
Open season is the annual period when employees can make changes to their health coverage or choose a new plan.
In the past, the guides were automatically mailed to employees. By putting the guides online, USPS wants to make it easier for employees to evaluate their choices and also help fulfill the organization’s commitment to sustainability.
The following guides will be available on LiteBlue by early November:
2015 Guide to Benefits for Career United States Postal Service Employees (RI 70-2).
2015 Guide to Benefits for Certain Temporary (Non-career) United States Postal Service Employees (RI 70-8PS).
2015 Guide to the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP BK-1).
2015 Guide to USPS Non-career Employee Health Benefits Plan (NCEHP BK1).
LiteBlue will also offer additional Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) and Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) resources, such as checklists, fact sheets, FAQs and a health plan comparison tool.
To request paper copies of one or more guides during open season, call the Human Resources Shared Services Center at 877-477-3273 (press option 5) or TTY 866-260-7507.
Washington, DC – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has announced the average premium rate for the 8.2 million people covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program will increase by 3.7 percent in 2014. That percentage is only slightly higher than last year’s increase of 3.4 percent and less than the national average increase in 2013. The average premium increase for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) will be under one percent for dental coverage and average premiums for vision benefits will decrease by 1.3 percent. Continue reading →
Postmaster General Pat Donahoe’s proposal to yank postal workers (excluding himself and a few other privileged folks) out of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program has drawn the ire of three unions that represent non- postal federal workers.
The National Treasury Employees Union, American Federation of Government Employees, and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association have jointly sent a letter to members of the Senate committee that oversees the USPS criticizing the Senate bill, S.1486, that would authorize Donahoe to proceed with his plan.
The unions note that the bill would
“allow the United States Postal Service (USPS) to cherry pick the largest areas of cost savings from FEHBP, which will destabilize the FEHBP and raise costs for federal employees, retirees, and their families. The Office of Personnel Management has estimated that as a result of these provisions, premium increases for employees and retirees remaining in the FEHBP would be 2 percent across the board and could be as high as 35 percent for some plans.”