Federal workers have a special financial stake in the coming Senate battle over legislation to provide catastrophic health protection under Medicare for retirees who are 65 or older.

The House has approved such a bill to be financed by a new, higher supplemental Medicare premium that would be based on an individual's taxable income. Such coverage would be a blessing for elderly retirees whose companies don't let them continue health insurance, offer them inferior coverage or force them to pay higher premiums than workers.

But most federal retirees already have health policies that offer excellent protection against crushing medical bills. So the House bill would charge them more for something they already have.

Under the House plan, coverage -- and premiums --

would be mandatory. The premium structure would be an added burden to federal workers whose pensions are fully taxed compared with people getting Social Security benefits that are largely tax-free.

The National Association of Retired Federal Employees figures that a typical federal retiree getting the average $13,566 pension would pay $500 a year more for coverage while an individual with the same income drawn largely from Social Security would pay only $110 more in premiums.

Ironically, most retired federal workers already pay very high premiums for catastrophic coverage. NARFE says that 72 percent of the people in Aetna's federal health plan are retired, as are 55 percent of the people under Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Both plans provide excellent catastrophic coverage, but their premiums are higher than less- comprehensive plans favored by many younger workers.

Opponents of the House bill hope that the Senate will make the coverage optional. If it is made mandatory, many older people will pay more for a benefit they don't need.Maybe Next Year!

Planning any convention is hard work. But after most, no matter how stressful or dismal, organizers usually emphasize how hard everybody worked and the good will generated and announce some kind of attendance record. With that background, it is refreshing to read this after-action report by a plain-spoken Arizona postmaster who helped plan his state's postmasters get-together. Said he:

"We had a smooth convention . . . . Most of us had a good informative time (expensive but enjoyable) . . . . I have a feeling we might have priced ourselves a little out of some postmasters' range and maybe next year we can do better. We missed the 108 postmasters who chose not to attend but we enjoyed the 90 who did . . . .

"I think we tried to do too much in 3 days . . . . I also think we should have fewer selections on the program . . . . I found it frustrating to get answers {as} to who would accept our request {to speak}. Arizona has five Congressmen and two Senators. Would you believe two of them didn't even answer my letters?

"P.S. I hope Dorothy Smith is all healed up by now from her broken bone she got in a fall at the convention."


The first annual Capital Microcomputer Users Forum will be Sept. 8-10 at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. For details, call Jackie Voigt at 683-8500. Job Mart

The General Services Administration has openings for a Grade 13 environmental engineer and a GS 12/13 fire prevention engineer. Call Mary E. Adams at 566-0401.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Rockville wants a GS 4/5 clerk-typist. Call 377-9861.

Army's Arlington Hall Station needs a GS 6/7 secretary (typing). Call Dorothy A. Vinson at 692-5411.