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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

OPM: Your Health Benefits Are Safe Under Obamacare

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The Obama administration wants the federal workforce to know about Obamacare.

The Office of Personnel Management has issued a memorandum to federal agencies to explain the new health insurance marketplace -- created by Obama’s landmark health care legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA for short -- and the tools it has made available to educate federal employees about its effects.

OPM has distributed a Q-and-A to each agency’s chief human capital officer to “address concerns [their] employees may have about the impact of ACA on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.”

The main takeaway? You can keep your FEHBP coverage, and it will exceed “minimum essential coverage” required by the law.

In fact, for the most part, federal employees will not really see many changes at all when the health insurance marketplace opens Oct. 1. Some of the other marquee provisions of the bill, however, do apply to feds’ FEHBP coverage.

For example, children can stay on a parent’s plan up to age 26, OPM said, and annual and lifetime dollar limits and exclusions for pre-existing conditions have been eliminated for FEHBP enrollees. One relevant ACA provision -- the opening of FEHBP coverage to employees of entitled Indian tribes, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations -- has already led to more than 20,000 new enrollments.

The Q-and-A represents one aspect of the education campaign launched by OPM. The agency has updated its website, created a repository of ACA materials and held training sessions for OPM staff. Employees have added information to their email signatures that includes details about the law.

OPM is encouraging chief human capital officers across government to use similar tactics to inform employees about the effects of ACA.

Except Congress

So no one’s FEHB will be taken away because of Obamacare -- except for members of Congress and their staffs.

Government Executive has provided extensive coverage of this issue, including OPM’s announcement it will pay for 75 percent of the costs for members and staffers who will receive health care coverage from the insurance marketplace.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., however, thinks this is unfair.

The congresswoman plans to introduce a bill that would take away the federal subsidy for lawmakers, but leave it in place for their staffers. While Capitol Hill workers are the only Americans required by the Affordable Care Act to switch from their employer-sponsored health care coverage to the individual marketplace, Capito said lawmakers should be treated “like any other American who purchases an individual health insurance policy from the exchange.”

“Americans continue to lose under President Obama’s health care law,” Capito said in a statement. “As long as Obamacare remains law, members of Congress should not receive exchange subsidies that are not provided to other Americans.”

Regardless of whether Capito’s bill becomes law, the congresswoman has pledged to refuse OPM’s subsidy. 

Eric Katz joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 after graduating from The George Washington University, where he studied journalism and political science. He has written for his college newspaper and an online political news website and worked in a public affairs office for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Most recently, he worked for Financial Times, where he reported on national politics.

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