The Senate was urged yesterday to design its plan to provide catastrophic health protection under Medicare so that government retirees don't pay double premiums for duplicate coverage, and younger workers aren't hit with yearly double-digit percentage increases in their federal health plan policies.
The House has passed a bill giving retirees 65 and older protection from staggering medical bills.
The plan would finance the Medicare benefit by premiums geared to each person's taxable income.
Because most private and government benefits are taxed (unlike Social Security) that could mean a Medicare premium jump of from $150 to $500 a year for many government and private retirees whose income comes primarily from non-Social Security sources, and who already have health plans with catastrophic health coverage. Premiums in the federal employe-retiree health program went up an average of 14 percent this year, and will rise an average of 31 percent in January.
Steve Morrissey, president of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, asked the Senate Federal Services subcommittee to either ensure that retirees with the catastrophic health coverage not be charged greater premiums or be allowed to opt out of that costly part of the proposed new Medicare benefit.
Harry P. Cain II of Blue Cross-Blue Shield warned the House Medicare bill could cause chaos in the federal health program and drive up rates for younger workers who are not directly affected by the proposed changes.
Although retirees use their health insurance more, many of them have Medicare, which pays up to 80 percent of their bills. If those with the coverage left, federal health plan costs could rise for workers and retirees who remained in the health plans.
Four members of Congress -- Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Reps. Constance Morella (R-Md.), Tom McMillen (D-Md.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) -- also testified in favor of coordinating the Medicare plan to protect retirees and workers from extra premiums for overlapping coverage.
Subcommittee Chairman David Pryor (D-Ark.) and others are working on a variety of proposals to make the catastrophic coverage plan, which is badly needed by millions of retirees, palatable and affordable to persons who find the House plan costly and unattractive.
The Pols Did It!
AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland blasted the Reagan administration in a speech yesterday before the union's Public Employees Department.
"The prevailing attitude in this administration," Kirkland said, "is that a term in public service is just another way to get rich off your connections once you're back in the private sector.
"The only public employes who are the problem in America today are the public employes appointed by the Reagan administration. It wasn't a career civil servant that came up with the bright idea to ship arms to the Ayatollah."