Burned up federal workers burned up the telephone lines yesterday.

They called the Office of Personnel Management, Congress and insurance companies. They wanted to know how come they are being hit with a 24 percent average health premium rise this January.

The angry feds, and retirees, got the bad news yesterday. It is that their health plans, which this year cut benefits 16 percent and raised rates 31 percent, cannot enter 1983 without another big premium increase. That increase -- with no major benefit changes -- has been approved by the Office of Personnel Management.

OPM blames the premium rise -- which will amount to $600 a year for some people -- on inflation in the medical/hospital care field, and on increased use by policyholders.

The situation could have been worse, OPM said, if it had allowed carriers to improve benefits!

Questions feds are asking:

How come Uncle Sam, who pays half of the $6 billion in premiums, cannot negotiate better group plan rates when the group includes 9.2 million people whose premiums are collected automatically by the government for the carriers?

* Why aren't the negotiations for the nation's largest company health plan open to the public?

* If the government is looking for ways to cut costs, why doesn't it act on the thousands of complaints it gets each year from policyholders who claim that hospitals overcharge, or bill for services not performed?

If anybody in authority has the answers, we will pass them along to you.