Unions denounce spike in fed health insurance costs

Federal employees and their unions are blasting—and trying to roll back—the recently announced price rise in health insurance premiums.

How much is the increase? If you haven’t heard, brace yourself: almost 5 percent!

That’s 4.9 percent to be precise. And in the four years since the last presidential election, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) premiums already have rocketed 18.1 percent. So, facing the latest price shock, not surprisingly your unions are raising their voices—representing hundreds of thousands of feds—in unison against it.

The National Treasury Employees Union fired off its first few words against the move:

“Federal employees once again will suffer another financial setback next year with the news that they will pay even more for health insurance in 2021,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a release. “As the largest employer-sponsored health insurance program in the country, [the Office of Personnel Management] should use its leverage to control these spikes in premiums that are too often a shock to the paychecks of frontline workers.”

Indeed, for the average fed in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield standard plan, the union notes, over a full year the new prices will cost that fed an additional $347.88. Premiums heading up that much, the union says, while so many strains are already weighing on feds—like the pandemic and widespread economic hardship—overburdens civil servants and their families.

“NTEU will continue to fight for ways to bring down health care premiums and educate our members on how to choose coverage that meets their families’ needs at the lowest cost possible,” said Reardon.

The American Federation of Government Employees likewise took to the media to pummel the sharp price spike.

“This shameful rate hike continues a pattern of large increases and cost shifting onto employees throughout President Trump’s administration,” Everett Kelley, AFGE’s president, said in a statement. “The president claims to be one of the best dealmakers on the planet, yet when it comes to negotiating these health insurance rates, he gives private health insurers whatever they ask for and sticks current and retired federal workers with the bulk of the bill.”

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association—long a friend of feds in the fight against health insurance price jumps—initiated a campaign against the plan.

“OPM’s announcement of the 2021 FEHB premiums is a disappointment to America’s civil servants and retirees,” NARFE President Ken Thomas said in a release. “With the backdrop of both a viral pandemic and bleak economic outlook, even the modest 4.9 percent average increase could become a source of financial stress for federal employees and the families they support.”

OPM administers the Federal Employee Health Benefits programs. OPM’s initial press release on the planned premium price increase downplays the impact of the price change on federal families.

Check your union’s web page and other employee advocate organizations to take action against the planned premium price hike. And, whichever plan you opt for in the end, take note that open season to enroll or re-enroll begins Nov. 9 and runs through Dec. 14.

Reader comments

Mon, Oct 26, 2020

How would the president, congress and senate react to this situation? Not at all, who do you think funds their re-election campaigns and bank accounts.

Tue, Oct 20, 2020

This pathetic job by OPM is not new. It has been going on for at least the last 3 Administrations. Time for Congress to act.

Tue, Oct 20, 2020 marc

How can GEHA - a non-profit, charge nearly the same rates as these other public hugely profitable companies?

Tue, Oct 20, 2020

With the rise in Medicare parts A and B, the SS increase of 1.3% is a joke. Now, to top it off, we have a 4.9% increase in medical premiums? This is highway robbery! I hope NARFE pushes hard for the alternate way to calculate the CPI for seniors along with protesting these premium raises. We really need it.

Tue, Oct 20, 2020

The Federal Government does not permit Medicare to raise its premiums more than the rise (COLA) in Social Security benefits. The same protection should apply to the FEHB premiums. This coming years, Social Security and Federal Pensions will rise 1.3%. FEHB premiums should be limited to the same (1.3%) rise. The planned 4.9% raise is UNFAIR, when the pension raise will be only 1.3%.

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