Pay & Benefits Watch

Erich Wagner | August 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

Trump Threatens To Ax Some Feds' Health Care Subsidies, OPM Rolls Out SES Plan, and More

As President Trump threatens to end cost-sharing subsidies for people purchasing insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, he has frequently described the payments as “bailouts” for the insurance industry and Congress.

“If ObamaCare is hurting people, [and] it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the insurance companies [and] why should Congress not be paying what public pays?” Trump tweeted Monday.

In referencing the so-called “bailout” for Congress, he's calling into question the employer-funded portion of health insurance for a small number of federal employees: congressional staffers.

Before the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, successfully amended the bill to require members of Congress and their aides to use the health care exchanges to acquire health insurance, instead of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

In 2013, the Office of Personnel Management implemented a rule that applies the percentage of premiums paid by the government under FEHBP to the plans selected by congressional employees on the Obamacare exchange. While the Grassley amendment does not apply to leadership or committee staff, reversing the OPM rule could drastically increase the health care costs for Congressional staff members.

It remains unclear whether Trump will follow through on his threats, an effort that would likely face a court battle. Such a move could be further complicated by the withdrawal of the White House’s nominee for director of OPM, George Nesterczuk, on Tuesday.

In other OPM news, the agency released a new framework to support members of the Senior Executive Service in professional development. As Jack Corrigan reports, the plan provides a roadmap for learning and growth for the thousands of SES employees over the course of their careers.

The plan provides a variety of goals and techniques for employees, depending on where they are on their career trajectory. It also recommends that agencies offer particular programs to SES members to aid in their growth.

In retirement benefits news, last week officials at the Thrift Savings Plan continued their preparations to offer blended retirement—a mix of the TSP and defined benefit pensions—for members of the military. They posted a series of changes to reports that agencies’ payroll offices send and receive as part of the new program’s implementation.

Officials with the retirement program and military service branches have begun training people about the new program ahead of the opt-in period, which begins Jan. 1, 2018. The Defense Department offers an online calculator for service members to learn whether the current or blended system is better for them. TSP officials are in the midst of improving the agency’s IT infrastructure to prepare for an influx of new customers.

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