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Senate bill proposes moving Medicare seniors into FEHBP

Republicans this week announced reform legislation that would wind down Medicare and open the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to all Medicare-eligible seniors.

Republicans this week announced reform legislation that would wind down Medicare and open the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to all Medicare-eligible seniors.

The Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act (S.2196), introduced on March 15 by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Jim DeMint (S.C.), would allow all Medicare-eligible patients to enroll in FEHBP plans beginning in 2014. The existing Medicare program eventually would sunset.

The legislation also gradually would increase the initial eligibility age for seniors over a period of 20 years from age 65 to 70, at a rate of three months per year. The sponsors claim the plan would save $1 trillion over the first 10 years.

“Medicare, as we know it, is broken and in desperate need of reform,” Paul said in a statement. “The CHCSA fixes the Medicare system, and gives seniors access to the best health care plans enjoyed currently by members of Congress and does so without breaking the bank; in fact this plan will save taxpayers $1 trillion over 10 years.”

Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, was less than enthusiastic about the proposal.

"This is a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of proposal that would both bring down Medicare as we know it and threaten the stability of the FEHBP,” Beaudoin said in a statement. "Given the current environment of budget attacks on federal employees, retirees and Medicare, the federal workforce and all Americans should be wary of plans like the one proposed today.”

A briefing document released by Paul acknowledges that moving seniors into FEHBP would raise the cost of coverage for federal employees. An individual federal employee “would be on the hook for $400 more per year of their own health care costs,” the document states.

“But the federal workforce already receives generous benefits and compensation,” the paper contends. “This is a sacrifice our federal workers should be prepared to make so that the citizens who pay their salaries and benefits can have the same health care benefits.”

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