GOP Medicare reform bill would let seniors tap into government employee plan

A federal workers union opposes the legislation, saying it would raise costs for enrollees by requiring them to subsidize Medicare beneficiaries who choose the option.

By Charles Fiegl amednews staff — Posted March 23, 2012

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Medicare seniors would be offered the choice of signing up for the same health care plans that cover lawmakers, their staffs and other federal employees under legislation introduced by Republican senators.

Starting in 2014, Medicare-eligible beneficiaries would have the option to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan if lawmakers were to approve the Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act of 2012. The legislation was introduced by Sens. Rand Paul, MD (R, Ky.), Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.), Mike Lee (R, Utah) and Jim DeMint (R, S.C.) on March 15.

The legislation would give seniors access to hundreds of health plans while phasing out the traditional Medicare program. It also would gradually increase the age for Medicare eligibility to 70 over the course of 20 years.

The bill's sponsors said that if the federal workers' plan is good enough for lawmakers, it should be good enough for the seniors they represent.

"To get our nation's fiscal house in order, we must address future entitlement spending," Graham said. "Our bill gets a handle on Medicare costs, which continue to escalate, and ensures the program is sustainable for future generations."

But a union representing federal workers opposed the bill. The plan would threaten the stability of the federal employees health plan, said Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Assn.

Dr. Paul said moving seniors into the federal workers plan would raise average coverage costs to federal employees by about $2,000 a year to $7,000.

Democratic lawmakers also have resisted calls to raise the Medicare eligibility age and phase out the traditional fee-for-service side of the program.

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