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Thousands of temporary federal employees could receive health insurance

Aug. 5, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Williams Fire Burns In The Angeles National Forest
The issue of health insurance for temporary employees gained the spotlight when President Obama extended the FEHBP to U.S. Forest Service firefighters in 2012. (David McNew / Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of temporary and seasonal federal employees would receive access to federal health insurance under a rule proposed by the Office of Personnel Management July 29.

Right now temporary employees working full time receive access to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan after a year of continuous service. Those who work less than full time do not qualify.

The rule makes temporary employees eligible for health care if they are expected to work full time for at least 90 days, at least 130 hours a month. There are more than 70,000 federal employees who count as temporary, full-time workers, according to OPM data.

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The issue moved into the spotlight in 2012 when President Obama extended the FEHBP to U.S. Forest Service seasonal firefighters. That order came after more than 100,000 people signed a petition at change.org. Later that same year, the government extended the benefit to part-time Federal Emergency Management Employees.

The rule also gives eligible employees working under a one-year appointment to receive government contributions to their FEHBP coverage. Some currently are eligible for the FEHBP program but do not receive a government contribution to the premium.

The rule would go into effect no later than January, 2015, according to OPM. People can submit comments on the rule to OPM until August 28, 2014.

"This is a big victory for temporary employees, but our work is not done," said Bill Dougan, the national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, which pushed for the expansion of health care among temporary employees.

He said the union is pressing Congress to allow temporary employees to compete with permanent employees on an equal basis giving them access to merit promotions, which would help when they applied to permanent positions.

“These dedicated employees deserve the same fair shot at advancing their careers as other employees, and we will continue to work to see that they get it,” Dougan said.

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