- Long-term care insurance. Federal employees now have the option of buying long-term care insurance at a discounted rate thanks to H.R. 4040, which was signed into law in September. Long-term care insurance covers the medical costs of extended illness, including home health care, nursing home care and care in assisted-living facilities.
- Erroneous retirement coverage corrections. H.R. 4040 also provides relief to federal employees and their families who, through no fault of their own, became victims of retirement coverage mistakes. Up to 18,000 federal workers may have been affected by the foul-up, which occurred in the mid-1980s during the transition from the old Civil Service Retirement System to the Federal Employees Retirement System.
- Higher retirement contribution rates. A repeal next year of the 0.5 percent retirement contribution increase imposed on federal employees as a budget-reduction tactic was included in the fiscal 2001 Transportation appropriations bill, which became law in October. Higher employee contributions began in January 1999 and were not scheduled to end until 2002.
- TSP for the troops. The Defense authorization bill, H.R. 4205, which became law in early November, allows service members to participate in the federal Thrift Savings Plan retirement program. Previously, the 401k-style plan was only open to civilian federal employees.
- Military retiree health care help. A provision reducing the maximum out-of-pocket health care expenses by 60 percent for all military retirees was also included in the fiscal 2001 Defense authorization act. That same bill provides permanent lifetime TRICARE eligibility to Medicare-eligible military retirees and their family members, beginning in fiscal 2002. Under current law, military retirees lose TRICARE benefits once they become eligible for Medicare.
- Instant TSP gratification. Newly hired federal employees can begin investing immediately in the Thrift Savings Plan and employees can roll over funds from private sector retirement plans into their TSP accounts under a bill, H.R. 208, that became law in late October.
In the coming weeks, Pay and Benefits Watch will take a look at what Congress didn't accomplish in 2000 and what's ahead for 2001.