If federal workers get any fringe benefit sweetener this year, it will probably be in the form of a much-improved life insurance policy.
Bills before the House would allow civil servants to buy optional insurance with a payout worth up to five times an individual's annual salary. Both have been introduced by Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.). Her subcommittee will handle them.
The more generous bill, from the employes' viewpoint, is Spellman's work. The other was proposed by the White House and introduced as a courtesy by Spellman. Federal workers and their families would be gainers under either bill.
At present federal workers automatically get life insurance policies worth approximately $3,000 more than their annual salary. They pay about 66 percent of the premium, with their agency paying the rest. In addition, employes may buy a $10,000 policy with premiums based on age. Persons under age 35 pay 60 cents every two weeks. Those age 60 pay $9 every two weeks.
Improvements proposed by the administration would be financed largely by employes, to reduce costs to government. Spellman says the $2 billion reserves of the federal program should be used to offset costs to workers.
In addition, she questions why Uncle Sam pays approximately $6 million each year in premium taxes to individual states when the program, in her view, is a self-insurance plan of the federal government.
The bill Spellman favors also would benefit the nearly one million federal retirees by lessening the reduction of the value of basic life insurance as retirees get older. Currently the face value of the policies can slip to 25 percent. Spellman would like to hold that reduction to 40 percent.