Magazine article Drug Topics

Bills Aim to Warn Congress of Pending FEHB Changes

Magazine article Drug Topics

Bills Aim to Warn Congress of Pending FEHB Changes

Article excerpt

Under legislation now pending in the House and Senate, Congress would have to be notified in advance before any significant changes were made in the health benefits of retired federal employees, such as requiring co-pays for prescriptions at community pharmacies but none for mail order.

"I want to save lives, save jobs, and save money," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D, Md.) in a Senate floor statement. "The 1996 prescription plan for federal retirees that Blue Cross & Blue Shield negotiated with the Office of Personnel Management [OPM] is jeopardizing jobs and may be jeopardizing lives. I want this policy changed in 1997, and I want to make sure Congress is well informed of any future changes in health benefits." Her bill is cosponsored by fellow Maryland Democrat Sen. Paul Sarbanes. An identical plan was introduced in the House by Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D, Md.) and 12 other representatives from both parties.

"Both bills creatively target the failure of OPM, through OPM's shortsighted discrimination in favor of unregulated mailorder pharmacy, to recognize the integral role community pharmacists play in contributing to the health and well-being of federal employees and their families by providing high-quality pharmacist care," said Charles M. West, executive v.p., NARD. Said Ronald Ziegler, presidentCEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, "These bills will substantially enhance the accountability for the design and operation of federal retiree health benefit programs."

The measures will "prevent OPM from making decisions on benefit changes in a vacuum, as they do now," Cardin said. If enacted, they would require OPM to send Congress an annual report describing any significant changes for the upcoming year for retirees covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefit program. The report would explain the expected cost benefits, how retirees would be financially impacted, and how quality of care would be affected. …

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