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Federal Daily - October 21, 2009

Study Suggests Ways to Improve Fiscal Health of FEHBP
Court Decision Would Award Back Pay to Some VA Health Care Workers
OPM Sponsors Fitness Walk/Expo on National Mall

Study Suggests Ways to Improve Fiscal Health of FEHBP

A new book that compares the track records of Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) outlines ways its author says can put both programs on stronger financial footing. Putting Medicare Consumers in Charge: Lessons from the FEHBP examines the historical performance of the programs, and examines lessons learned that may indicate ways to help improve the programs’ financial health. For decades, FEHBP consistently outperformed Medicare in cost control, benefit generosity and enrollee protection from catastrophically high health care expenses, according to author Walton Francis. However, Francis said that in 2000 the Office of Personnel Management placed the enrollee share of FEHBP premiums into the same tax-preferred status as most private employer health insurance premiums, a decision he said eliminated market incentives for FEHBP enrollees to choose more frugal plans. As a result, FEHBP lost much of its cost control capacity, Francis said. Francis emphasized that the most fundamental reform is to reduce the tax preference for unlimited employee health care benefits. “Reducing this tax preference will save money by creating incentives for prudent shopping and prudent spending,” Francis said in an Oct. 19 statement released by the book’s publisher, the American Enterprise Institute. Francis also recommends using high deductible plans with savings accounts to give consumers incentives to spend less on unneeded care, as well as putting pressure on providers to counsel patients about lower-cost treatment options. To see more, go to: www.aei.org/press/100035.

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Court Decision Would Award Back Pay to Some VA Health Care Workers

Current and former health care employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) who worked nights and weekends may be eligible for up to $10,000 each in back pay under a recent federal court ruling. The case affects VA health care employees who either currently or formerly worked at VA on Saturdays or at night after 6 p.m. from September 1995 up until the present. The U. S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that VA should have paid these employees the customary weekend premium pay of 25 percent or night premium pay of 10 percent whenever they took paid leave instead of working their weekend or evening shifts. Under the court ruling, all claims must be filed by Feb. 9, 2010. The court is still working out ways to calculate the back pay and interest in each individual claim, according to an Oct. 16 statement posted online by the National Federation of Federal Employees. The case is Quimby v. United States, No. 02-101C. The judge in the case said that current and former VA employees should not call the U.S. Clerk’s office because all the necessary explanations are contained on the Web site www.VAbackpay.com, according to a statement by the American Federation of Government Employees. Those who may qualify for an award in the case include registered nurses, nurse anesthetists, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, pharmacists, licensed physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists and employees in over two dozen other specialized health care positions. To see more, go to: www.afge.org/index.cfm?fuse=content&contentID=2042 or www.nffe.org/ht/display/ArticleDetails/i/16112.

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OPM Sponsors Fitness Walk/Expo on National Mall

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced the launch of FedsGetFit, a three-month wellness awareness campaign to prepare agencies for the Campus Worklife Program slated to be implemented next year. The campaign will highlight four “pillars” of a healthy lifestyle—physical activity, nutrition, healthy choices, and prevention. Each of the three months of the campaign will have a theme around these pillars, said OPM Director John Berry. October’s theme is fitness, November’s is nutrition, and December’s is healthy choices. The theme of prevention will run throughout the entire campaign, he said. As part of the effort, OPM on Oct. 27 will sponsor a mile-long fitness walk and expo on the National Mall. The expo will feature agency wellness programs that can be emulated government-wide, Berry said in an Oct. 17 memorandum to agency heads. The Oct. 27 event will include agency leaders, members of Congress and players from the National Football League Players Association, Berry said. To see more, go to: www.chcoc.gov/Transmittals/TransmittalDetails.aspx?

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