It could be several weeks before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee acts on a House-passed bill that would allow a number of health insurance plans to make refunds to more than 2 million policyholders.
Nearly 200,000 people in the Washington area are due the refunds, which will range from a few dollars to more than $400.
The administration has approved plans for the unprecedented rebate, and so has the House. But the bill remains before the Senate.
Blue Cross-Blue Shield started the refunds rolling earlier this year when it asked for the government's permission to rebate more than $754 million in premiums because its 1.4 million federal subscribers have not used their insurance as much as anticipated.
It proposed making a refund of nearly half a billion dollars to the government -- which pays an average of 61 percent of employe premiums -- and to give almost $289 million to current policyholders.
Other health plans offering refunds include Government Employees Hospital Association, Government Employees Benefit Association, Aetna and the health plans of the Foreign Service, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the American Federation of Government Employees. Refunds vary from plan to plan.
There are two reasons the refunds haven't been made already:The federal health insurance law must be changed so that the refunds can go to retirees as well as active-duty employes. The House has approved that change in legislation, and it is now before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. A group of people who had Blue Cross-Blue Shield health insurance in 1983-84 have filed suit in U.S. District Court here asking that they, too, be given a portion of the refunds. As a result, the insurance company has had to put several million dollars in escrow in case the court orders that those years be covered.
Once the Senate acts, most of the plans will immediately contact policyholders advising them of amounts due them and asking for confirmation of amounts and addresses.
However, nothing is going to happen until the Senate acts, and that may not be until just before the Thanksgiving congressional recess.