WASHINGTON ― Options for federal employee health care may have increased over the years, but general enrollment remains consistent and concentrated within the largest providers, a GAO report shows.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) grants health care to over 8 million federal employees, retirees and their dependents via the Office of Personnel Management. However, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act of 1959 limits the number of health plans offered in general.

OPM has subsequently proposed the expansion of its health care provider contracting authority as a means to increase the variety of health care plans and to better facilitate market competition between them. The Government Accountability Office then reviewed current FEHBP participation as a means to analyze the possible economic and social impact of OPM’s addition of new health care carriers.

GAO found that from 2008 to 2015, the median of a county’s offered health care plans increased from 19 to 24. Nonetheless, federal employees still tended to go with the biggest provider, namely Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, with median enrollment in that plan going from 58 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2015.

GAO had also interviewed both OPM officials and 11 FEHBP stakeholders, ultimately finding a lack of consensus as to the estimated costs of the OPM health care contracting authority expansion. Most of the aforementioned stakeholders supported the authority expansion and those who did not cited concerns about higher premiums and program instability.

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