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Hoyer: Feds shouldn't look for lower health premiums anytime soon

Sep. 13, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Hoyer told representatives of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association that he would like to increase the government's share of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program premiums to 80 percent, but doesn't see that change happening soon.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Hoyer told representatives of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association that he would like to increase the government's share of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program premiums to 80 percent, but doesn't see that change happening soon. (JIM WATSON / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)

BOWIE, Md. Two proposals to lower health insurance costs for employees and retirees are unlikely to advance until the economy and the government's fiscal outlook improve, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said today.

Hoyer told representatives of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association that he would like to increase the government's share of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program premiums to 80 percent, but doesn't see that change happening soon.

"I haven't introduced the bill this session because of our financial situation," Hoyer said. "When times get better, I want to pursue it."

The government has steadily been shifting more premium costs to employees in recent years. For example, under the Blue Cross Blue Shield standard family option the most popular FEHBP plan the government now pays 67 percent of the premium. That's down from 69 percent in 2009.

Congress also is unlikely to extend a pretax benefit to retirees that active federal employees now enjoy, Hoyer said. Under the so-called premium conversion benefit, active feds pay their monthly health care premiums with pretax dollars. Civilian and military retirees do not have that benefit. Lawmakers expect extending that benefit would save retirees an average $820 per year.

"I don't want to say no, [premium conversion will never be passed,] but certainly not in the near term," Hoyer said.

Tell us what you think. E-mail slosey@federaltimes.com?subject=hoyer_091310%20FTR">slosey@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">STEPHEN LOSEY.

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