Connolly’s Attempts to Overhaul Health Programs Bad For Federal Employees

July 19, 2010 by Jim Martin

Filed under Editorials / Opinion, Top Headlines

Originally published in the Culpeper Times

Now that Congress has rammed through health reform, several Members, including Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), serving the 11th district, have wasted no time identifying another program to “reform,” broken or not. Unfortunately, it seems that the Federal Employees Health Benefit’s Program (FEHBP) has landed in their crosshairs in the form of bill HR 4489.

The goal of the bill is to completely overhaul, or, in the words of co-sponsor Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-MA), “blow up” FEHBP, and give Congress new powers to control pharmacy prices, evolving from its enormously popular current state, to a program more akin to Medicaid’s price.

The goal here, as with health care, is to consolidate government power, limit choice and competition and cater to liberal special interests. Their approach seems more focused on scoring ideological points than putting beneficiaries’ needs first, all but guaranteeing poorer health care for FEHBP enrollees who thought they were getting a good deal.

After years of government service, this isn’t what senior and retired folks were promised. And it’s certainly not what enrollees deserve.

Congressman Lynch’s effort to “blow up” FEHBP is supported by just a handful of partisan liberals like Gerry Connolly. Sadly, we’ve already seen that this Congress is willing to ram bills through before having to face voters again in November. Sounds like more of the same.

Have Connolly and Congress learned nothing from the health care reform debate? Regardless, Mr. Connolly would be well-served by simply listening to his constituents, who are overwhelmingly happy with their benefits, especially their drug benefits. In fact, according to a recent survey, three out of four FEHBP enrollees oppose any legislation to change the system as it currently stands.

Clearly, current enrollees are happy with their coverage.

HR 4489 would undermine one of the most popular and effective federal benefits programs in history. There is, of course, no evidence that the proposed legislation would save FEHBP or federal workers a single dime, and we know from history that, as with just about every program government takes on, we will see significant cost increases, reduced efficiency and a severe limitation of choice.

After all of the years of work FEHBP enrollees have put in, it’s truly saddening to think that our service will be belittled in this way, and in the name of purely partisan politics.

Now, in fairness to Connolly, he probably hasn’t read the legislation (sound familiar?). But like so many things in Congress, there are unintended consequences. And in this case, if the quality of FEHBP benefits is diminished, so is the government’s ability to help attract and retain top-notch personnel.

Perhaps Congress can be forgiven for wanting to look busy in an election year. But wanting to “blow up” the gold standard of health benefits is something that, as the head of an organization formed to protect retirees and seniors, I take very personally.

If Gerry Connolly is concerned about his political future, he should think twice about supporting HR 4489. I’m willing to bet my fellow retirees and seniors in his district take it personally, too.

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Jim Martin is Chairman of the 60 Plus Association, formed in 1992 as a non-partisan seniors’ advocacy group with a free-enterprise, limited government, lower taxes mission and a strict adherence to the Constitution. www.60plus.org

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