Health insurance premiums for federal workers and retirees will jump as much as $1,000 in 1988, an average increase of 31 percent, the Office of Personnel Management announced yesterday.
OPM said the record increase in average premiums reflects soaring costs of medical care nationwide and greater use of health insurance by many of the 11 million workers, retirees and dependents covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the nation's largest "company" health plan. More than 200 insurance plans participate in the FEHBP, with about 25 open to workers and retirees here.
More than half the people in the Washington area depend on the federal program to help pay their medical, hospital and dental bills.
Most of the health plans offered to federal workers here will raise their premiums. But many are well below the average 31 percent increase, and a few show no increase. Some plans -- primarily the prepaid health maintenance organizations -- will cut their premiums in 1988.
Premiums charged by Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the largest plan in the FEHBP, will go up $800 in 1988 for high-option family coverage. The cost of the premium for retirees or workers in that plan will be more than $2,700 next year.
Another popular FEHBP plan, Aetna, will raise its federal premiums for workers more than $1,100 next year.
Under the rate schedule released by OPM yesterday, Blue Cross-Blue Shield's biweekly premium for federal employes will be $105.35, an increase of $31.59 for "high-option" family coverage. Aetna's "high family" coverage will go up $43.30, to $103.42 every two weeks.
As its share of the premiums, the government will pay $77.48 biweekly.
The largest dollar increase locally is in the high-option family coverage plan offered by the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees union. Its premium will go up $66.80 biweekly next year.
A few plans, such as the National Treasury Employees Union, are not increasing premiums for family coverage. And the plan offered by the Federal Managers Association will drop premiums for single coverage by $6.83 per pay period and will lower the biweekly family premium by $19.28. As a general rule, government workers pay their premiums every two weeks through payroll deductions. Premiums for retirees are taken out of monthly pension checks.
Workers and retirees will be able to switch health plans -- shopping for better or less-expensive health coverage -- during an open season that starts Nov. 11. The premiums and benefits offered with each of the plans were negotiated for workers by OPM.
The federal program's cost for 1988 has been driven up in part by the large number of retirees who have opted for the larger plans, which offer more comprehensive coverage, officials said. Premiums in the FEHBP went up an average of 14 percent in 1987.
The announcement of higher premiums comes almost a week after President Reagan formally recommended that federal workers be given a 2 percent pay raise in January. (Congress is expected to raise the increase to 3 percent.) Retired civil servants, whose pensions are tied to the cost of living, are expected to receive a January increase of about 3.7 percent. The average federal worker here earns about $32,000 a year, while the typical retiree receives about $13,500.
Persons enrolled in the federal health plan include members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, mid-level civil servants, clerks, civilian astronauts, CIA agents, Foreign Service personnel and most government retirees, including two former presidents.
The nation's 800,000 postal workers, whose union contract provides for a larger government contribution to their premiums, receive the same kinds of coverage.