Federal unions say they pulled out of a proposed television health insurance show because the producer, the Office of Personnel Management, wanted them to foot the bill for an overpriced political Ron & Don Show.
The OPM announced last week that a closed-circuit health insurance program--which hardly anybody had heard about--would not take place after all, even though the agency had hoped to air it in November.
OPM said the show would not go on because federal unions were too cheap (and too pigheaded) to cough up a mere $30,000 each to help finance the program. The program was to have helped U.S. workers and retirees here shop for their 1984 health insurance plans.
OPM said it had arranged with Western Union Videoconference Inc. to put on the show. Feds and retirees would have been invited to 50 or 60 sites hereabouts to view the closed-circuit presentation. OPM said the production would have cost about $500,000 and been seen by as many as 300,000 viewers.
In a fire-and-brimstone-style news release last Tuesday, OPM officials said the show would not go on because most unions did not want to cooperate. Director Donald Devine said it "appears impossible because these unions just don't want to see the conference become a reality." The unions say OPM is speaking with a forked tongue.
Here are some examples of what the unions say:
* That OPM dictated the terms of the show and wanted to feature Devine and President Reagan on it.
* That OPM would allot only one minute for each health plan presentation and that it would review all material to be presented.
* That the Washington area doesn't have 50 or 60 sites that would accommodate thousands of people for such a viewing. (The Kennedy Center Opera House, for example, seats about 3,000 people).
* That OPM already has in its coffers a multimillion-dollar administrative fund (that comes from insurance premiums) that can be used for administrative expenses. If the show is such a good idea, the unions said, why doesn't OPM do it with its own money?
* That the program could have been produced at a much lower cost and made available to everybody with a TV set if it was run on a local commercial or public television station.
* That the show was over-budgeted to make a big profit, if the 25 plans participating each kicked in $30,000 (a total of $750,000) for a production OPM said would cost $500,000.
That, the unions say, is why they didn't participate.