Postal bill could bring hike in health premiums for federal workers

Thousands of federal workers could see a double-digit jump in their healthcare premiums under a postal reform bill that is moving through the Senate.

The bill would change the way postal workers get their health benefits and could have a ripple effect across the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which provides coverage for the federal workforce. 

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The postal bill would lead to premium hikes of at least 10 percent in three of the largest plans in the entire FEHBP, according to an estimate that the Office of Personnel Management that was provided to congressional aides.

Those three plans are among the most popular with federal workers, and cover nearly 100,000 postal workers who would be moved out of the FEHBP under the postal bill. 

Postal employees who are older than 65 would have to enroll in Medicare under the Senate’s proposal, which would also create a new system for private coverage outside of the FEHBP.

The FEHBP allows federal workers to choose from a wide range of private plans that meet certain minimum standards. The federal government covers roughly two-thirds of the premiums, leaving employees to pay the rest.

An FEHBP plan for rural postal carriers would see the biggest premium increase under the Senate proposal. Premiums for that policy would jump an average of 16 percent, according to the Office of Personnel Management, and enrollees who aren’t married would see their costs rise by more than 30 percent.

About 60 percent of the people covered by the rural carrier plan are eligible for Medicare.

The postal bill would produce smaller premium hikes for other plans that are popular across the federal workforce. Premiums for the largest FEHBP plan, which is administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, would rise by about 2 percent on average.

The Office of Personnel Management did not respond to additional questions about its estimates, which it has not released publicly.