Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Model for Health Coverage


For the most part, federal employees, retirees and their family members are not among the 40 million Americans lacking health insurance. But that doesn't mean they won't be affected by the growing health care debate.

Health care policy is proving to be a more central issue in the 2008 presidential election than in the past. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, a Republican candidate, told attendees of an AARP conference in February: "I would dare to say the 2008 election is going to be all about health care."

There is Iraq, of course. But, to the extent that health care is important, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is part of the debate. The idea of giving American people access to the same health plan as members of Congress is politically solvent. If the FEHBP is opened up to the general public, though, it could change the demographics, which could influence premiums and make managing the program costlier.

In 2006, two successful contenders for Senate seats -- Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. -- used the FEHBP model in their health care platforms. Klobuchar advocated opening the program to the uninsured and McCaskill supported using the program as a model for a new health care system for small businesses.

Putting aside Thompson and a few other exceptions, the Democratic presidential contenders have tended to focus on health care much more so far than their Republican counterparts. Some Republicans, including John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, don't even mention health care on their Web sites.

But the Democrats mostly do. And three of them -- Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson -- use the FEHBP in their platforms.

Richardson has the most prominent reference to the federal employee plan.

Richardson would seek to "open up existing sources of affordable, portable coverage to more Americans," his platform states. "Working families and small businesses will be able to purchase coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan."

Under Richardson's proposal, not only would private sector employees be allowed to enter the FEHBP -- the government would help some of them pay for it. Richardson suggests "an advance refundable tax credit based on income will help families obtain coverage through the FEHBP."

According to a local New Hampshire media outlet, Foster's Online, Richardson spoke about health care in Barrington, N.H., in early May.

"Businesses and individuals should be able to get the congressional plan," Richardson said. "If you can get it for the Congress and federal government employees, you should be able to apply to the Cadillac plan that the Congress gets."

Clinton's Web site does not mention opening up the FEHBP, or any specific plan to bring the universal health care coverage she advocates. But in a March 26 town hall on ABC's television program "Good Morning America," she made it a possibility.

"I believe that one of the ways we can get health care for everyone is to open up the federal plan that's available to members of Congress," Clinton said. "That would be one way that we could say to you that you have the same right as anybody in Congress."

Obama, too, has yet to unveil a detailed health care proposal. But he is certainly familiar with the FEHBP, touting his support for health care technology in the program as a way to decrease costs. His election Web site says that "Senator Obama worked with Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev. to introduce the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Efficiency Act to leverage the federal government's purchasing power to encourage the development of health information technology."

And according to The Des Moines Register, during Iowa campaigning in April, "Obama hinted during his later stops Thursday that his plan would likely include government assistance for some uninsured to enroll in insurance programs such as those offered to federal employees."

Watch for the FEHBP to be offered as a health care solution, especially among moderate candidates who would not go as far as a single-payer plan.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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