Legislators clash over health care reform’s impact on FEHBP

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and others request hearings. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and others request hearings. Susan Walsh/AP
As House Democrats prepare to introduce new health care reform legislation this week, federal employees' health benefits once again became a political football in the debate over the bill. Sixteen Republican representatives wrote to Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., to demand that he schedule hearings on reform proposals' potential impact on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Their letter reiterated a request that Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member on the oversight committee, made in July, asking Towns to explore whether FEHBP meets the requirements for a "qualified health benefits plan." Such plans would have to cover at least hospitalization; outpatient services; visits with doctors and other qualified health professionals; prescription drugs; treatment for physical rehabilitation, mental illness and substance abuse; preventative medicine; maternity care; and basic care for infants and children under age 21. Under a number of health care reform proposals, Americans would have to enroll in plans that have certain required characteristics, pay taxes for refusing to enroll, or move into a government-run health care program that has the required features.

Towns responded to Issa's initial request by noting that the House health care reform proposal under debate at the time had a five-year grace period that would allow health care plans to make changes to meet the definition of a "qualified health benefits plan." He said any changes to FEHBP would be minor and easy to accomplish within that grace period.

"I understand that some administrative and a small number of benefits-related adjustments would be necessary in 2018 in order for all of the individual plans offered under FEHBP to satisfy the applicable requirements of a qualified health benefits plan," Towns wrote in July. "However, there will not be a need for a significant overhaul of FEHBP."

In their letter on Wednesday, committee Republicans complained they "have not received an account of that work [Towns was doing on the health care reform bill], or further explanation of what the 'limited impact' on FEHBP actually entails."

Towns called their concern about federal employees' health care baseless, and said Republicans were trying to delay relevant hearings and votes on health care reform bills. Instead of being forced out of FEHBP because it doesn't meet the requirements, he said, federal employees would see improvements to their health care plans if reforms passed.

"Any suggestion that federal employees may be forced out of insurance coverage and subjected to an additional tax is false and has no basis in the text of the bill," Towns said in a statement. "Under [the bill Democrats are set to introduce], federal employees will remain in their current system, and will also benefit from the same improvements to health insurance plans that all other Americans will enjoy, such as ending co-payments for preventative medicine and automatic enrollment."

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 GovExec.com.
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.