In the Senate's desperate attempt to pass health care reform, some senators are putting together a new plan. The plan calls for the public to enroll in health plans similar to what Congress and other federal employees get in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. This is an idea that many people have been clamoring for.
In the FEHBP, all federal employees and their families are accepted, regardless of any pre-existing medical conditions. The plans are portable nationwide. So if an employee gets transferred from Washington to Kansas City, he can keep the same plan. The plans are also portable across different jobs, as long as it is a federal job position. Even after an employee retires, he can keep the same plan with the same premium, something everybody else can only dream about. Right now, when a person retires from a company, the private insurance premiums are so expensive that nearly everybody enrolls in Medicare. Currently half of the people enrolled in FEHBP are retired. There is also choice, with ten different plans for federal employees to choose from. Most people, if they have a choice, only have two to three from their companies. Federal employees pay 25% of the insurance premium for the cheaper plans, with the government (you and me as taxpayers) picking up the rest. For higher priced plans, the employee pays a larger share.
Sounds perfect right? A nationwide portable health insurance plan, no denials for pre-existing conditions, and multiple plans to choose from. What could be easier than explaining to the public that they would get the same health insurance benefits as their Congressman, rather than the current labyrinthian proposals on the table. According to a study by The Urban Institute, there are some risks to allowing the public to enroll in health insurance plans similar to the FEHBP. Some of the downsides noted in the study don't seem justified, and I'll explain why.
Originally this was going to be one entry. But it got so long that I decided to split it into two sections. You can read part two tomorrow.