Health legislation aims to help employees' adult children

By Joe Davidson
Friday, May 14, 2010

Federal workers with adult children moved another step closer to having them covered by employer-sponsored health insurance this year, instead of next, with the introduction of Senate legislation designed to help.

Though the health-care law signed by President Obama this year permits such coverage, the Office of Personnel Management said laws governing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program prohibit that coverage from taking effect before January.

The FEHBP Dependent Coverage Extension Act, introduced by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) on Tuesday, moves up, by about three months, the time that federal employees would be allowed to have those children included in their health insurance policies. Currently, adult children are pushed off most FEHBP policies when they turn 22.

"With graduation season upon us and our economy still recovering from the recession, families should be able to help their children keep comprehensive health benefits past age 22," Cardin said. "Many insurance companies have moved quickly to extend this important benefit, and our bill will make it possible for OPM to do the same."

Cardin was joined in sponsoring the legislation by Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) among others, including one Republican, Maine's Susan Collins. Collins is important to this legislation, not only because the larger health-care law had no Republican support, but also because she is the top Republican on the Senate subcommittee that oversees federal workforce issues.

If approved, the legislation would take effect Sept. 23. According to Mikulski's office, if an adult child isn't covered at that time, his or her parents would have to wait until the FEHBP open enrollment period, which probably will be in November and December, to obtain coverage for the dependent. Adult children turning 23 on Sept. 23 or after, could continue with the coverage they had.

Mikulski said "this is the right thing to do for the federal employees who are on the front lines every day, working hard for America. If health-care reform means that the kids of hedge fund managers can stay on their parents' health care until they're 26, kids of federal employees should be covered until age 26, too."

Naturally, the bill has strong support among federal employee organizations.

"FEHBP should start covering our kids now, just as other insurers have started doing in the private sector," said Margaret L. Baptiste, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Leadership issues

A survey of Department of Homeland Security employees found that they like the work they do, but they aren't too pleased with their bosses.

Almost 68,000 permanent, civilian employees responded to the 2009 annual employee survey. A strong 91 percent said the work they do is important and 83 percent said they like their jobs, according to results that recently were released.

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