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Proposal To End Federal Health Plan Is Off The Table

Proposal To End Federal Health Plan Is Off The Table

Alex M. Parker | Government Executive

October 02, 2009

Civil servants are no longer in danger of being forced off the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program under the Senate Finance Committee’s version of health care reform legislation.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, agreed to scale back a proposal that would have required all federal employees to move from FEHBP to state-based health exchanges so it applied only to members of Congress and their staffers. The committee passed the narrower version of the amendment on Tuesday night by unanimous consent.

“This amendment will level the playing field, so we get the same deal private citizens do, and vice versa,” he said.

Grassley was not placated by an earlier attempt to modify the language by staffers for Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. The staffers added a provision to the underlying bill allowing — but not forcing — federal employees to switch to the state-based exchanges, but Grassley said this would not accomplish his goal of making the government abide by the rules it sets for the public.

Unless an amendment is offered to change it, the provision giving federal employees the option of moving to state exchanges will remain in the committee’s version of the bill alongside the requirement that lawmakers leave FEHBP.

The committee has been marking up the health care reform measure for nearly two weeks.

In a statement, Grassley blasted the health care bill for expanding government, claiming agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service will have to hire hundreds of employees to administer it.

“The sponsors of this effort don’t have any idea of how many more federal employees, especially IRS employees, will be needed to enforce these provisions,” Grassley said. “Taxpayers pay for administrative costs, along with everything else. Before we expand the federal government, at taxpayer expense, we need to know exactly what we’re doing.”

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