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Federal Diary: OPM's Berry about hiring process, laments rise in health premiums

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"I think the Blues increase is out of line," said Berry, a Blues member. "I, like every federal employee, I'm sure, are going to be looking very carefully . . . during the open season, at what my options and choices are."

A rate increase announced a few months ago for federal long-term care insurance subscribers continues to give workers the blues, leaving many feeling blindsided by a program whose literature easily led many to believe there would be no increase. "When this program was launched, OPM could have done a much better job in making clear there was a potential for rate increases in the future," he said. "It was there in the small print, but it should have been there in the big print."

Following Federal Diary reports on employee anger at the increase, a joint Senate panel held a hearing on the issue last week. Senators also have let Berry know OPM should give workers more time to decide if they want to keep their current level of benefits and pay a higher premium or pay their same premium and get a lower level of benefits.

Berry said OPM soon will announce that the deadline for making that decision will be extended from December to February.

Pay issues, including creating a single, government-wide pay and performance appraisal system, are hot on Berry's radar, but he's not ready to bring them in for a landing yet.

"We're just in the initial discussion stages on all of these [pay-related] topics," he said. "We are in discussions with a lot of folks, looking at what are creative ways to appraise performance and do it fairly, that will work and be easier for employees to understand and managers to implement. . . . There's a lot of energy being put on this."

A personal note

Thank you to my colleagues Steve Vogel and Ed O'Keefe, who kept the Diary pages turning during my absence. And many thanks to all of you who sent your best wishes my way. I really appreciate your kind thoughts. It's good to be back. A parting thought: Become an organ donor.


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