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

Calculating Cost

There's still more than a month left for federal employees to consider their long-term care insurance options, and the group that manages the program has launched an online tool to help guide users through the process.

The interactive consultant tool employs video, interviews, charts and other features to inform feds of the costs of long-term care insurance and the choices available. For example, users can enter their benefits selections and the tool will produce a coverage summary with the corresponding premium rates. A cost-of-care map also enables users to compare the cost of the benefit in cities across the country and estimate future rate hikes based on inflation.

The Office of Personnel Management in January announced that open season for the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program would run from April 4 through June 24. The program, which assists with health care costs for participants who need help with daily personal functions, or who have a severe cognitive illness, covers home care or care in a nursing home or assisted living facility -- benefits not often included under health insurance plans. Federal employees, retirees and their relatives, including same-sex domestic partners, are able to apply for the government's long-term care insurance option during this rare open season.

People Progress?

The government wouldn't run (efficiently or otherwise) without people. The Government Accountability Office placed human capital management on its high-risk list back in 2001, and it's still one of 30 areas the watchdog deemed vulnerable in 2011. Just in the last week, however, there has been some movement on addressing the problem. The Office of Personnel Management presented a plan on Tuesday to the Chief Human Capital Officers Council that outlined a strategy for how to get human capital management off the infamous list, according to sources. OPM would not comment on the plan, saying it was "too premature" to talk about the strategy at this time. In February, GAO released its 2011 high-risk list and offered some praise to OPM in particular for its attention to improving human capital planning, providing better guidance for agencies on management initiatives, and educating the workforce on available flexibilities, such as enhanced telework opportunities.

Hiring Myths

OPM is trying to encourage agencies to make better use of a program that allows the temporary assignment of personnel between federal agencies and other organizations in and out of government.

The agency posted some "myth busters" on its site on Wednesday related to the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility program, pointing out that agencies do not take full advantage of the flexibility to staff hard-to-fill jobs in areas such as information technology and nursing.

Among the reminders:

  • Agencies do not need OPM's approval to make assignments via IPA. A written agreement among the involved parties will suffice.
  • Federal agencies can enter into an IPA agreement with state and local governments, universities and Indian tribal governments.
  • IPA assignments can be reimbursable or not, depending on the arrangement, meaning they're not cost-prohibitive to agencies.
  • Assignments can be made for full-time, part-time and intermittent employment.

Kellie Lunney covers federal pay and benefits issues, the budget process and financial management. After starting her career in journalism at Government Executive in 2000, she returned in 2008 after four years at sister publication National Journal writing profiles of influential Washingtonians. In 2006, she received a fellowship at the Ohio State University through the Kiplinger Public Affairs in Journalism program, where she worked on a project that looked at rebuilding affordable housing in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR and Feature Story News, where she participated in a weekly radio roundtable on the 2008 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, she worked at the Housing and Urban Development Department as a career employee. She is a graduate of Colgate University.

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