Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NARFE Concerned About Proposal to Have OPM Administer “Public Option”

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) President Margaret L. Baptiste announced today that NARFE is concerned about a compromise proposal being considered in the Senate’s health care reform bill that would have the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administer a health care delivery system consisting of at least two national, private nonprofit insurance plans or a government plan. Baptiste said that NARFE specifically opposes a component of the proposal that would require Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) plans to offer coverage though the OPM-administered public option, if the personnel agency cannot otherwise find at least two carriers willing to offer nationally available plans.

“Most organizations are successful when they focus on their core mission like a laser beam,” Baptiste said. “OPM should be in the business of attracting the best and brightest to federal service, if our nation is to effectively grapple with an unparalleled economic upheaval, two overseas wars and homeland security. OPM’s role as the government’s HR office is too important to dilute with the massive undertaking of creating and administering a new health care system for millions of Americans.

“While NARFE supports access to comprehensive health care for all Americans, we are concerned that an OPM-administered health care system is being proposed as a political solution to a legitimate national problem,” she said. “It would make better public policy to have the Department of Health and Human Services manage this new program since one of their fundamental responsibilities is to administer large health care systems for diverse communities of coverage.

“In addition, we are troubled that this proposal could compromise the integrity of the FEHBP, which is an earned employer-sponsored worker and retiree benefit. For that reason, we insist that the FEHBP and the proposed OPM-administered plan be negotiated and managed separately to ensure that FEHBP continues to offer federal workers and annuitants comprehensive coverage with affordable and predictable premiums. For example, NARFE opposes part of the proposal that would require FEHBP plans to offer coverage in the public option because the mandate may encourage some insurance carriers not to participate in either program. As a result, competition and choice, which are hallmarks of the FEHBP, would be undermined.

“Above all, any proposal to have OPM administer a public plan must guarantee that federal workers and annuitants who like the health insurance coverage they currently have through the FEHBP are allowed to keep it, just like other Americans who are covered by employer-sponsored health plans.

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