Coburn questions Obama rule giving firefighters health coverage

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The Obama administration announced the new policy on Tuesday.

The move came after recent blazes in Colorado shed light on federal firefighters' previous lack of health coverage. As seasonal government workers, thousands of firefighters had not been eligible for insurance under the federal employee health plan.

In his letter, Coburn asked how the new policy could take effect immediately, bypassing the steps involved in normal federal rule-making.

"The use of an interim final regulation may be permissible," he wrote, "but ... it is usually relatively rare since it effectively circumvents a normal transparent public comment period."

Coburn asked OPM for an assessment of the regulation's economic impact, its impact on federal worker premiums and the estimated 10-year cost to taxpayers.

Under the new policy, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will cover firefighters and their families. OPM said that other temporary disaster-relief workers could also qualify in the future.