The U.S. Postal Service's 36 top officials now enjoy a fringe benefit--free health insurance--that is unavailable to any other federal worker from the neighborhood mailman to President Reagan.
Government-paid insurance for USPS brass was approved last month by the board of governors of the mail-moving corporation when it met in sunny Honolulu.
The board is made up of nine private citizens named by the president plus the three top officers of the USPS. It meets monthly, six times a year in Washington and six times in various cities around the nation.
Board members, most of whom are successful business or university types, are paid $10,000 a year, plus travel and lodging and $300 per day when they meet. The board selects the postmaster general and oversees operations of the semi-independent agency.
January's action means that the postmaster general and his top aides--whose salaries range from $69,630 to $57,500--will have all of their government-backed health insurance premiums paid from USPS funds. Those premiums can run over $1,000 a year for federal workers who pick comprehensive, high-option plans.
The board also voted to pay the life insurance premium of Postmaster General William F. Bolger, who will be 59 next month, beginning on his 65th birthday whether he is still with the USPS or retired. It also agreed that it might later consider paying the life insurance premium--with a face-value of approximately $210,000--next year at age 60.
Officials who will benefit from the free health insurance, in addition to the postmaster general, include the general counsel, chief postal inspector, communications-press chief, head of the consumer advocate office and various deputy, senior and regional postmasters general.
A USPS spokesman said the board action was an attempt to give top talent of the multibillion-dollar corporation some of the fringe benefits available to counterpart executives in the private sector.
Members of Congress and the president are eligible for the Federal Employes Health Benefits program, which provides a wide range of plans. Generally, the government pays about 60 percent of the premium for white-collar workers and about 75 percent of the total premium for unionized postal workers.
News that the USPS--which generally pays its executives more than their counterparts in other federal agencies--is now paying all VIP health premiums could spark a move to extend that valuable fringe benefit to executives in other federal agencies whose pay, according to the government, is about $20,000 per year behind the private sector.
Although members of Congress pay for their federal health insurance, they, and some designated top appointees, are also eligible for VIP medical treatment at Walter Reed Army Hospital or the Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
Medical care at those facilities--among the best in the country--is available at a fixed fee which is about one-quarter of the amount charged at local hospitals for general care.
And of course if you are a member of Congress in a VIP suite at a military hospital, odds are you don't have to ring twice for an aspirin.
Meantime, back to the debate on cutting medical services for the poor!
David Swoap, No. 2 man in the Department of Health and Human Services, will talk about the president's new federalism plans at the Feb. 23 luncheon of the American Society for Public Administration. Place is the George Washington University ballroom. Call 566-3532 for reservations.