Most of the 9 million people under the government's in-house health insurance program will have to pay more out of their own pockets next year when they visit the doctor or a hospital.
With just a few weeks until feds, family members and retirees are due to begin shopping for 1982 health insurance coverage, the government and the 130 plans in the FEHB (federal employe health benefits) program are still not certain how much premiums will be increased, how much certain benefits will be reduced or even which plans will be in the insurance business next year.
Office of Personnel Managment brass have been pushing for 1982 deductibles of around $200 for all plans and benefit cuts in others. OPM says the aim is to cut costs, although some plans contend that OPM wants to drive them out of business. OPM officials are engaged in legal battles with a couple of unions, and in negotiations and/or shouting matches with others as the deadline approaches for new rate and benefit brochures to go to the printer.
OPM has kicked the American Postal Workers Union out of the health plan business -- APWU has gone to court to stay in the 1982 program -- for allegedly failing to meet the Friday deadline given insurance carriers to come up with benefit and rate packages that were suitable to OPM analysts.
The American Federation of Government Employees, another big union health plan, is also suing OPM because director Donald J. Devine has barred federal health plans from paying 1982 benefits for abortions unless the mother's life is at stake. Devine says the cutback is in line with congressional and White House opposition to federally funded abortions. Opponents feel Devine is improperly pushing the right-to-life line at the expense of feds and their families who feel they must have the choice of an abortion when there is high risk that a child will be born with a major deformity or life-shortening disease.
The government, under intense pressure from the medical community, apparently is preparing to back off "major cutbacks" in psychiatric benefits, and in dental health care coverage. Although OPM brass say that a decision on how much to raise deductibles and first-dollar costs to employes (both of which will mean more out-of-pocket payments for workers) has not been made, carriers predict that the deductible will be raised to at least $150. Some plans currently have no deductible at all.
There will a a new round of lawsuits filed today against OPM by unions and other carriers who allege that OPM attempts to standardize benefits -- or drop carriers from the program -- violate rules governing the federal health program which, with 130 plans, is supposed to offer a variety of rates, benefits and coverage.