How A Political Campaign May Impact Your Health Insurance Benefits

The Federal Employees Health Benefits program is getting a lot of attention from politicians. It may have an impact on federal employees.

If you are like many Americans, you haven’t paid much attention to the never-ending political rhetoric that bombards readers every day. But, as a federal employee, you are an integral part of our political system. Your career can be impacted by the philosophy of the person and the party that wins an election. With this in mind, here is some food for thought.

As is the case with many companies, federal employees have been paying more for their health insurance as the cost of health insurance is going up 10% or more each year. (See related articles from the links on the left hand side of thiis page.)

While no one likes the current cost increases in the health insurance program, here is a question for you to ponder. Will the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program become part of the nation’s welfare system? And, if it does become part of this system, how will this impact your federal employee health benefits?

It is not a rhetorical question. Astute observers of the federal government’s human resources program will recall that it wasn’t too long ago that the idea of including Americans without health insurance in the FEHB was bandied about as a way to provide insurance for people that did not currently have insurance.

The idea is not dead. In fact, as the federal health benefits program is often viewed as a model program to be followed by other industries, politicians looking for votes during this political season are often mentioning using the federal program as a way to provide insurance for the uninsured. Many voters will respond to this proposal in a positive way. The issue is often presented to voters as “what is good for federal employees should be good enough for other Americans as well.” Who can argue with that logic?

But, as a federal employee, you may want to argue with it.

Some candidates have not been specific on their platforms regarding this issue but there is little doubt that the federal health benefits program is often considered a model health insurance program. There is also no doubt that some candidates are looking at this program as a way to gain popularity. Some are clearly looking at the federal program as an ideal way to provide health insurance to the uninsured. Here is a sample of several candidates positions on this issue taken from recent news reports.

Wesley Clark advocates a system that would allow “Americans without job-based insurance [to] enroll in the system for federal employees and be assured of fairly priced premiums.”

Presidential candidate John Kerry wants to: “Expand insurance system for federal employees to private citizens through tax credits and subsidies. Unemployed would get 75 percent tax credit to help pay for insurance. (He would propose) [t]ax credits for small businesses and their employees for health insurance. People ages 55 to 64 could buy into federal employees’ health plan at affordable price.”

Candidate Al Sharpton: “Calls for federally paid health plan that guarantees all citizens health care. Amend the Constitution to enshrine the right to health care of equal quality for everyone.”

No one can say with any certainty how these programs would be structured if any of these candidates should become president and in a position to influence Congress to pass this legislation. There is little doubt that a flood of new people covered by the current federal health benefits program would have an impact on the program. In all likelihood, many of the people coming into the program would increase the cost of the program. We don’t know the answers to questions such as “Who would pay these additional costs?” or “Would federal employees have the same quality health insurance program they now have?”

As the campaign progresses, the candidates’ position on this issue may become clearer. But federal employees may want to pay close attention. A health plan structured and paid for by the government and its employees could be much different (and much less expensive) than a plan with a primary purpose of providing health insurance for uninsured Americans.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47