A bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced last week two bills to help protect the health benefits of federal employees during government shutdowns.
According to the lawmakers, press reports during the recent shutdown indicated that federal employees had difficulty obtaining health insurance coverage for their newborns because some agencies were not processing new enrollments or changes to enrollments. There were also reports of employees possibly losing coverage if they did not pay their premiums for dental, vision, and long term care insurance because coverage would continue only for two or three pay periods, after which insurers would start billing employees directly.
The Ensuring FEHBP Coverage During Shutdowns Act (HR 2003 / S 971), would ensure that employees who experience a qualifying life event—such as the birth or adoption of a child—could immediately enroll their dependents into a Federal Employee Health Benefits Program plan even if the government is shut down.
The Ensuring FEDVIP and FLTCIP Coverage During Shutdowns Act (HR 2004 / S 973), would ensure that employees’ dental and vision benefits and their long-term care insurance coverage would continue during any period the government is shut down.
Congressman Elijah E. Cummings introduced the bills in the House. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced companion bills in the Senate.
The lawmakers issued the following joint statement on their bills:
“Government shutdowns place thousands of federal employees and their families in very difficult positions. While we truly hope to avoid shutdowns in the future, the measures we are introducing today would ensure that federal employees could enroll their newborn babies in their health insurance plans and that they would not lose their dental, vision, or long-term care insurance if another funding lapse occurs. We owe it to our civil servants to mitigate the impact of funding lapses over which they have no control.”
Both bills are supported by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.