WASHINGTON – In an under-publicized and underhanded move, Blue Cross/Blue Shield – with the blessing of the Office of Personnel Management – will essentially change its Standard Option PPO into an HMO. Starting in 2009, anyone enrolled in the plan who receives certain services from an “out of network” provider has to pay 100% of costs up to $7,500 per year. Previously, the plan paid 70% of these services and the enrollee paid just 30%.
“The sudden change has not been widely publicized and come Monday December 8th, unsuspecting federal employees will be in a for a rude awakening,” stated Jacque Simon, public policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield offered to negotiate a retraction of the change but OPM has indicated that it will not change its policy. “Federal employees will suffer because of this,” continued Simon. “The open season ends Monday, too soon for most federal employees to act on the news they are receiving at such a late date.”
“AFGE has long decried the fact that although participants pay on average 30% of premiums along with substantial copays and deductibles, we have no voice whatsoever in the annual negotiations over benefits and prices,” concluded Simon. “AFGE calls on OPM to admit its complicity in hiding this important information from federal employees, allow Blue Cross/Blue Shield to rescind this change and revert to the 2008 level of coverage for all of the services affected, and charge federal employees not a penny more than OPM had already approved for 2009.”