House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has announced legislation, H.R. 3319, the Equal Healthcare Access Act, that would allow all Americans to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP).
Issa says the legislation would do the following:
- Nationwide Coverage. Americans would have the ability to purchase coverage as a member of this group plan. Individuals could choose from among the more than 230 plan choices participating in the FEHBP.
- Improving Access & Choice. Nearly 99 percent of physicians already accept FEHBP plans, allowing all Americans to find a doctor that is convenient for them and almost all Americans to keep seeing the doctors they see now.
- Providing Affordable Options. The FEHBP uses market competition and consumer choice to provide $45 billion annually in health care benefits at an affordable cost. Individuals pay the same rate, regardless of pre-existing conditions, age or health status. Expanding access to the benefit will foster greater competition among insurance providers for price and quality.
- Expanding Consumer Choice. In 2014, federal workers will have access to 256 plans through FEHBP nationwide, up 10 percent in 2013. The plans include HMOs, PPOs, consumer driven healthcare plans and more. They range in cost and coverage, allowing consumers to select a plan which is right for them. Most major insurance providers currently participate in FEHBP.
- Enhancing Quality-of-Care. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would continue to ensure the solvency of the plans, enforce reasonable standards for care, and protect enrollees.
- Making Prices Easier to Compare. Participants will have a clear picture of their out of pocket costs, and their exposure will be capped at reasonable rates.
- Helping Job Creators. Private sector employers could subsidize premium costs for their employees allowing them to buy plans, unlike the state-based exchanges established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
- Keeping Administrative Costs Low. To fund the administration of FEHBP, OPM adds a charge to each premium not to exceed 1 percent to cover administrative costs. The system currently uses 200 employees to facilitate a private market that today serves 8 million civil servants, retired employees and family members.
“The Equal Healthcare Access Act offers Americans access to the same health insurance plans long enjoyed by Members of Congress and their families,” said Chairman Issa. “This is a free market approach to healthcare with government playing the very limited role of helping small businesses and individuals come together to get a better price for healthcare – much like larger businesses can already negotiate on their own.”
Issa added, “The American people should have as easy a consumer experience as federal employees do.”
Government employee unions weren’t so crazy about the idea. American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox thought the bill was unnecessary, saying, “If Rep. Issa wants a health-care system where consumers are able to choose among many different plans and no one is turned away or charged more for pre-existing conditions, he should take a look at the exchanges established through Obamacare.”
National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen Kelley added, “Federal employees and retirees should not be put in the position of subsidizing non-employee health care costs.”
The idea of opening the FEHBP up to more participation is not a new one. Legislation has been introduced in the past along similar lines, such as then Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) proposing opening the FEHBP to all Americans in 2007.
Proposals actually go back as far as 2004 when presidential candidate John Kerry floated the idea. In fact, other presidential candidates at the time were debating the issue. To date, however, none of these proposals has come to fruition.
To search the 2014 health insurance premiums for plans under the FEHBP, be sure to visit the insurance section at FedsDataCenter.com.