What a week

By Katy Saldarini

September 21, 2000

It's been a big week for pay and benefits news:

Long-Term Care/Retirement Corrections

On Tuesday, President Clinton signed into law a bill that will allow federal employees to purchase long-term care insurance at discounted rates and that will correct errors in some employees' retirement coverage. In case you missed it, here's the full story: http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0900/092000k1.htm.

The Office of Personnel Management said long-term care coverage would be available no later than October 2002. The program will be available to civilian and military employees, retirees and their eligible family members.

Implementing regulations for the erroneous retirement correction portion of the bill will be issued shortly, OPM said. In the meantime, OPM has created an e-mail list for anyone who wants to stay updated on implementation of the retirement regulations. To subscribe to the e-mail updates, go to: www.opm.gov/benefits/correction/listserv.htm.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the bill are also available online at: www.opm.gov/benefits/correction/faq.htm.

2001 Health Premiums

The response this week to OPM's announcement on 2001 premium rates for federal health care plans was harsh. OPM announced late last Friday that Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) rates would increase, on average, 10.5 percent next year.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) issued a statement lambasting the higher rates. "This week brought federal employees a one-two punch from the big drug companies," said AFGE President Bobby Harnage. In addition to the higher premiums, Harnage referred to the recent cancellation of a pilot program that would have allowed one FEHBP plan to purchase prescription drugs at a discounted rate off of a GSA schedule.

"The consequence of this maneuver on the part of the drug companies is clearly evident in OPM's announcement on 2001 premium increases," Harnage said.

TSP Update

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which runs the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), released new information this week on upcoming changes to the TSP recordkeeping system. The new TSP system will also allow investors to check the value of their funds daily. According to the latest update, the computer software that runs the new system has numerous defects that haven't yet been fixed, but the testing phase is ahead of schedule.

Treasury-Postal Bill

Earlier this week, the White House indicated President Clinton is likely to veto the combined fiscal 2001 Legislative Branch and Treasury-Postal appropriations package because its funding levels for the Internal Revenue Service and counterterrorism operations are too low. The combined bill contains several pay and benefits measures affecting federal employees, including extension of a child-care subsidy pilot program and a rollback in retirement benefits contributions. The House passed the bill last week and the Senate is expected to take it up this week.

By Katy Saldarini

September 21, 2000