Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed late in the night on Dec. 8 that 10 senators had reached a compromise, but he said he would not release details until the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to calculate how much the idea would cost. (SAM RICHE / THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR VIA GANNETT NEWS)
The Office of Personnel Management may be tasked with negotiating national insurance policies for uninsured Americans as part of the Senate's health care reform plan.
The idea of placing OPM in charge of a quasi-government health program was floated last weekend by 10 moderate and liberal Senate Democrats in hopes of garnering the 60 votes needed for the bill's passage.
Instead of a government-run public option, OPM would negotiate coverage with private insurance companies, which would provide insurance to the uninsured. Should the private companies fail to provide services in accordance with the health care bill, the government would then be free to start a public option.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., confirmed late in the night on Dec. 8 that the 10 senators had reached a compromise, but he said he would not release details until the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to calculate how much the idea would cost. That gives Senate leaders a chance to revise the plan or create a new plan in case the CBO finds the idea to be too costly.
It's also not clear how OPM would be able to handle such a sizable role in health care. Statutes give OPM authority only to negotiate plans for federal employees, and no one is sure if those statutes would need to be modified to give OPM authority to oversee the plan the Senate is considering.
OPM would also need significant plus-ups in funding and staffing to take on additional work, said Linda Springer, a former OPM director under President George W. Bush. Senate leaders haven't released details of the plan, so it is unknown what, if any, additional funding OPM might receive.
Giving OPM massive new responsibilities could strain its abilities to serve its primary constituents — federal workers, Springer said.
"In my opinion, OPM is good at what it does. It can't go beyond that," she said.
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