OPM Proposes Extending Fed Health Benefits to Same Sex Partners

Riccardo Piccinini/Shutterstock.com

The Obama administration has proposed to expand the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to domestic partners -- including both opposite- and same-sex couples -- as part of sweeping changes to the program.

The Office of Personnel Management announced its proposals at a congressional hearing Thursday, saying the initiatives would improve efficiency and help recruit a better workforce while saving $8.4 billion over ten years.

Previously, same-sex domestic partners were not covered under the FEHB Program. Jonathan Foley, OPM’s director of planning and policy analysis, testified at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census Subcommittee that the expanded coverage would cost $600 million over 10 years.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the oversight committee’s chairman, met the figure with skepticism.

“I hear you,” Issa said, “but I find that as believable as estimates of how much Obamacare would cost.”

In his prepared testimony, Foley said expanding coverage is a wise business move for the federal government.

“This proposal would align the FEHB Program with best practices in the private sector as larger employers competing for talent are increasingly offering domestic partner benefits,” Foley told the subcommittee.

Providing benefits to domestic partners would be coupled with a new “self plus one” option for federal employees, meaning they could provide coverage to themselves and a partner or one child. Currently, feds must choose either self or family enrollment. Overall, this would save $5.2 billion over 10 years, Foley said.

Another major change to the benefits system would be to allow regional options as part of the health benefits plan. This would allow OPM to consider additional plan types but only offer contracts when it was in the best interest of enrollees, according to Foley, who said the proposal would save $260 million in the next 10 years.

Some lawmakers, including Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C., expressed concern this would lead to breaking up the large pool of enrollees covered in FEHBP -- currently 8.2 million employees and retirees. Foley said OPM was not proposing a regional pool, and that regional plans would still be part of the larger pool.

OPM also suggested allowing the agency to negotiate with pharmacy benefit managers directly, instead of relying on individual health plans to do so. Foley said by leveraging the size of its enrollment pool, it could save $1.6 billion over 10 years.

Finally, OPM proposed creating differentiated rates for enrollees based on their health status and participation in health and wellness programs. Tobacco users, for example, would be subject to higher premiums.

(Image via Riccardo Piccinini/Shutterstock.com)

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:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


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