Senate-House conferees have decided not to make changes in the health insurance program -- changes that would have doubled 1981 premiums for hundreds of thousands of government workers and retirees in the nation's largest health care program.
In its version of the budget reconciliation bill, the House adopted a provision that would have required the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program to become the primary payer of retiree medical bills that are now picked up by Medicare. The switch would have saved the Social Security program millions of dollars, but forced many of the 100-plus plans in the government program in boost rates (some as much as 400 percent) for the 1982 year.
Federal officials who opposed the switch from Social Security to FEHB as the primary payer argued that it could force many insurance carriers out of the government health program, and bankrupt some who stayed in it. They said that plans with large numbers of retirees in them would be especially hard hit and pass added costs on to workers and retirees.
The Senate's version of the two recouncilation bills being considered by conferees from both sides did not make any changes in the FEHB program. House members had been instructed to seek the changes that could seriously have damage the inhouse government insurance program that covers 10 million employes and family members.
Yesterday, House conferees voted to accept the Senate version, which makes no changes. They did it partly because Assistant Majority Leader Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) threatened to filibuster and tie up the entire budget reconciliation package if the House change prevailed.
This does not mean health insurance premiums aren't going up next year. Many plans will raise rates. The Office of Personnel Management is in the midist of negotiations with carriers over new benefits and rates for the 1982 year. Employes will have an open season sometime in November during which time time they can shop around for new rates and plans.