If you are one of the 950,000 people here covered by the federal health insurance program you probably recall the chaos of the last "open season."
That was when U.S. workers and retirees from Singapore to Suitland tried to pick a winner from among the bewildering array of 113 health plans dangled before them.
Seminars were hastily arranged in local libraries and schools. Experts and insurance representatives tried to explain benefits and premiums and to help people make choices. It was a nice try. But how many people can you cram into the Hyattsville armory? Or in a Fairfax high school? Not enough!
The media tried to advise people of the best plan for them, depending on their age, health, family situation and how much they could afford.
Because of the confusion, and the big jump in premiums, productivity obviously suffered. Workers raced around trying to get brochures of plans and spent time calling friends, Capitol Hill and elsewhere.
After the choices were made lots of people found out--too late--that the plan they picked had premiums that left them strapped, or that the "bargain" they chose didn't provide adequate coverage.
So wouldn't it be a great idea to have a television show on the first day of the upcoming open season, explaining the plans with listeners able to call in specific questions to the experts before the camera?
If it cost $500,000 (as estimated) it probably would be cheap at the price, and provide a badly needed public service to the 9.2 million U.S. workers and family members enrolled in the plan.
There was a plan for just such a show. Scheduled for the evening of Nov. 14, it would have been sent via closed circuit to movie theaters, auditoriums and other places with screens or TV sets.
But the show was canceled because the would-be producers are feuding.
The Office of Personnel Management, which thought up the idea, says everything was fine until it ran the idea by federal unions, which have their own health plans.
OPM Director Donald Devine said that although officials of the major health insurance plans, called carriers, backed the idea, "the union-sponsored carriers were almost unanimously opposed."
OPM announced the cancellation in a press release. It said unions balked at paying the cost of the show. OPM says the $30,000 per union tab could have been charged back to OPM anyhow. In private some OPM officials say the unions exhibited a "why-the-hell should we let Don Devine get credit for the idea" attitude.
Unfortunately for the federal employe public, the negotiations were secret. So you didn't know about it until OPM announced that it had a heck of an idea but the selfish old unions wouldn't play along. Had feds known about it, chances are they would have welcomed the idea.
"I am terribly disappointed by this outcome because the proposal could have . . . benefited hundreds of thousands of federal employes in this area and, ultimately nationwide," Devine said.
Assuming the unions didn't play ball--and the vice president of one union said the alleged union opposition "is news to me"--the OPM seems to have two choices:
Either take its marbles and go home or go ahead and run the show as an OPM production since, via the "charge back," OPM would wind up paying for it anyhow. And some of the taxpayers who help finance the OPM work for the government.
It is too hard to find out if there is a villain in the cancellation, and if so who that is. So quit squabbling, fellows, and run the show. You will get good ratings from federal folks here. And you need them!