More High-Deductible Plans Could Be Ahead for Federal Workers

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

All insurance carriers in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program would be able to offer high-deductible health plans, under a proposed rule that the Office of Personnel Management plans to issue in October.

That’s from the Trump administration’s regulatory agenda for the OPM, which was released July 20. Unlike many other items on the agenda that are leftovers from the Obama administration, the high-deductible plan proposal (RIN:3206-AN54) is appearing in the OPM agenda for the first time.

“In the past not all carriers could offer more than two options,” the agenda’s summary of the upcoming proposed rule said, referring to the standard option and the high option. Standard-option plans in the FEHBP offer networks of doctors, and participants’ care is generally covered except for a copayment. High-option plans provide for both in-network and out-of-network coverage.

“This change will level the playing field in terms of options offered to Federal employees, annuitants and their eligible family members,” the agenda said. “This action is necessary to promote a competitive environment where carriers have incentive to offer higher quality benefits at affordable prices and broader provider networks. This regulation fully aligns with the Administration’s goal of promoting affordable health plan choices.”

More Choice or Higher Costs?

High-deductible health plans are controversial because of their appeal to young, healthy participants who want to minimize the cost of their health-care plans, even at the risk of having to pay high deductibles before any needed health care is covered. Such plans can leave other health insurance plans within a given network with a smaller supply of young, healthy participants, leading to higher costs for other enrollees.

Robert E. Moffit, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based group that supports limited government, said July 20 that allowing all FEHBP providers to offer high-deductible health plans would give enrollees more health plan choices.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to allow all carriers to offer high deductible health plans is in keeping with the tradition of expanded consumer choice, which has been a hallmark of the FEHBP,” Moffit told Bloomberg BNA in an email.

Certifying Performance Management Systems

Also on the agenda is a final rule (RIN:3206-AL20) that would revise the performance management certification system for senior executives in the federal government. The rule is scheduled to be issued by the OPM in September.

The Obama administration issued an interim final rule revamping the performance management certification system for the Senior Executive Service in July 2004. The OPM and the White House Office of Management and Budget followed up on Jan. 19 of this year, the last full day of President Barack Obama’s second term, with a new proposed rule. That rule was intended to “update the current regulations to account for changes in statute, policies, and processes that have occurred since the current regulation became effective in 2004,” the OPM and OMB said then.

However, the Trump administration will have the last word on the subject, at least for now, with the upcoming final rule.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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