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09.24 Unlocking secrets of sea level rise in Greenland [15 minute video]
09.24 What are public lands?
09.24 Americans: the next climate migrants 'We're moving to higher ground': America's era of climate mass migration is here [estimates do not include immigrants from other nations similarly affected]
09.24 Opec predicts massive rise in oil production over next five years [wonderful for fossil fuel investors; terrible for all plants and animals]
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09.24 Brett Kavanaugh faces second allegation of sexual misconduct09.23 MARYLAND GOVERNOR REBUFFS CALL FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO BRETT KAVANAUGH ATTEMPTED RAPE ALLEGATIONS [Republicans above the law...]
09.19 'Killing a generation': one million more children at risk from famine in Yemen [Does America's government have empathy? Does it understand the concept of morality? The Saudi Air Force would be ineffective without U.S. military assistance...]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
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09.18 Racist rioting in Chemnitz has reopened Germany’s east-west split [After 10,000 generations, we are all mixed-race. So let's become friends with our cousins instead!]
Some Federal Workers Can’t Afford Their “Model” Health Care Plan
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation on 30 September 2009
Like all private insurance, the FEHB’s offerings are so expensive that about 100,000 federal workers don’t participate because they can’t even afford their share of the premiums, which average about 30 percent of the total cost.
Now that the Senate Finance Committee has driven a stake through the public option, there’s likely to be renewed talk about the Federal Employees Health Benefits program (FEHB). Throughout the contentious health care debate, the federal workers health plan has been often hailed as the model everyone can live with. It’s even been described by some as the basis for an alternative “public option,” under which the unisured could either buy into the FEHB or, more likely, into a program modeled on it. Members of Congress just love to talk about offering Americans the “same health care” they themselves enjoy, and Obama has said much the same thing.
Too bad there really isn’t anything public at all about the FEHB, as I (and others) have written before. It’s simply a system that allows federal workers to sort through dozens of different private insurance plans, and pick one they want. (This supposed model for a public option doesn’t even include a public option itself.) Their employer, the government, then picks up the majority of the cost of the premiums, with the workers paying the rest. They have a wide range of choices among private plans and access to group rates, which is better than what a lot of Americans have. But like all private insurance, the FEHB’s offerings are expensive–so expensive that about 100,000 federal workers don’t participate because they can’t even afford their share of the premiums, which average about 30 percent of the total cost.
Now the FEHB’s premiums–like everyone else’s–are getting a lot more expensive. As Joe Davidson reports today in the Washington Post:
The rates for FEHB Blue Cross Blue Shield, a popular choice because of its comprehensive coverage and wide choice of providers, will increase far more–15 percent for individuals, and 12 percent for families.
These rate hikes will likely present no problem for members of Congress, who earn $174,000 a year (and have expense accounts). But Davidson cites responses from unions representing rank-and-file federal workers:
Most telling of all is the statement given to reporters by Nancy Kichak, an associate director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: “An 8.8 percent increase is not an increase that we feel comfortable with,” Kichak said. “It’s not one that we would like to see our enrollees bear, but unfortunately we’re a victim of the market.”
A “victim of the market.” Sounds like the same thing that’s wrong with the whole U.S. health care system (with the exception of original Medicare, which Congress could look to as a model for a public option, if only they had the political will).
But as we know, in the market there are always winners as well as losers: Witness the jump in health insurance company stocks on Tuesday afternoon, following the Finance Committee’s defeat of two proposed public option amendments.
Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.
Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.
Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.
This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on October 2, 2009.