On October 1, people across the country are scheduled to be able to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (also called the ACA or Obamacare). There is an extraordinary amount of confusion about the law – many are unaware that there is a substantial penalty for failure to purchase insurance. Some are only finding out that their current spousal coverage is being cancelled – or even that their current policy is being discontinued. Details of what is covered are hard to come by, and cost information is under dispute.
For federal workers, there is concern that they will be forced to surrender the coverage they currently receive through their employers, and instead purchase insurance for themselves – through the ACA exchanges. There is so much concern that the Office of Personnel Management recently issued a memo clarifying that none of these workers will be forced to give up the coverage they currently have, and that their coverage is likely better than what people will be able to get in the exchanges anyway. In fact, one press account in a publication read primarily by federal workers reassures them their health benefits are “safe.”
The main takeaway? You can keep your FEHBP coverage, and it will exceed “minimum essential coverage” required by the law.
In fact, for the most part, federal employees will not really see many changes at all when the health insurance marketplace opens Oct. 1. Some of the other marquee provisions of the bill, however, do apply to feds’ FEHBP coverage…
So no one’s FEHB will be taken away because of Obamacare — except for members of Congress and their staffs.
This is hardly the attitude you would expect if the coverage available in the exchanges was worth being excited about. Why would anyone want to be kept “safe” from an improvement in their health care? Why are federal employees fearful of having the opportunity to see their health care improved?
This is not the first time we’ve seen evidence that government workers are desperate to avoid ACA insurance. A recent poll showed that just 3 percent of federal employee want to purchase coverage in the exchanges, against a full 92 percent who oppose it. And they are so fearful of these exchanges that the IRS employees’ union is lobbying Congress against a bill to require them to buy their insurance there.
Federal workers should not be entitled to better coverage than is available to millions of Americans. If workers are truly concerned about transferring their coverage to the exchanges – as they clearly are – then there is something wrong with those exchanges. Why is this level of care good enough for families, but not good enough for the workers who make and enforce the regulations we live by every day?