The request by the U.S. Postal Service for Congress to allow the independent federal entity to pull its workers out of the retirement and health benefits plans covering federal workers and set up its own benefit systems is drawing criticism from both unions and health policy experts.
Postal Service health-plan move criticized
The request was spurred by the inability of the Postal Service to issue a $5.5 billion payment—required by federal law—to cover future employee healthcare costs due Sept. 30, according to documents posted on its website.
Critics said alternate approaches would allow the agency to keep its 563,401 employees in the federal health insurance program.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, suggested that Congress instead allow the USPS to use surpluses in certain pension accounts to cover its pre-funding requirements for retiree health benefits.
Another critic of the proposed health insurance change described it as “nonsensical.”
“The notion that the managers of the Postal Service have some ability to design a health insurance program that will outperform the (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) isn't credible,” Walt Francis, the principal author of an annual consumer guide for choosing plans within the federal employee insurance program, said in an interview.
Francis said the proposal to pull out of the federal insurance program is simply a threat to spur congressional elimination of the requirement that the agency pre-fund retiree health benefits by over $2 billion annually.
“This is not an indicator of anything except the desperate financial status of the USPS,” Francis said. “It is certainly not an indicator of either FEHBP problems or health coverage trends in general.”
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