Maryland lawmaker tries to ease federal employees’ fears about health care

It was supposed to be a discussion of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program's Open Season, but many participants in Monday's town hall meeting in Montgomery County, Md., expressed concern over the health care reform package before Congress.

At the Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton, Md., Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, tried to assure a crowd of about 200 people, mostly retirees, that current health care reforms under consideration would not have an adverse effect on their federal health benefits. Many current and former federal employees reside in Van Hollen's Montgomery County congressional district.

"We're trying to keep what works with our current system, and fix what's broken," Van Hollen said. "There is nothing in this [House] legislation which would reduce the benefits of the federal employees plan." The House passed its health care reform package on Nov. 7. The Senate leadership has not unveiled their version yet, but it is expected to be similar to the one passed by the Senate Finance Committee in October.

Van Hollen was joined by union officials and a representative from the Office of Personnel Management.

The lawmaker noted that the version the Senate Finance Committee passed included a tax on individual health care plans worth more than $8,000 and family plans valued at more than $21,000, which some lawmakers have said could affect FEHBP enrollees because many of those plans are above that threshold.

"It's not in the House bill for a reason. They believed it was not an appropriate course of action," Van Hollen said of his colleagues in that chamber. "We're going to keep fighting for our version of the bill.

Van Hollen said the public option would expand the choices available to FEHBP enrollees by encouraging insurers to lower their prices for everyone; he also said the package would not result in significant cuts in Medicare and could perhaps even boost benefits for Medicare enrollees.

But not everyone at the forum was convinced that their health plans would not be adversely affected by overall health care reform.

"They keep acting like it's a free lunch," said John Hite, a retiree from the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md., after the meeting. "But I just can't believe it… You can't get blood from a turnip."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.