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Clock Ticking for Millions of Federal Employees Hoping to Avoid Blue Cross/Blue Shield Benefits Cut
Date:12/5/2008

Patients and Doctors Call on BCBS and OPM to Restore 2008 Benefits, Extend "Open Season" Beyond December 8th

Affected Patients and Doctors Available to Speak to the Press

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tick, Tick, Tick! Nearly half of the Federal workforce (four million employees nationwide) have until just December 8th to either change health care plans or face some costly penalties for procedures, surgeries and emergency care performed by doctors out of their "network." These changes affect all Federal Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Option plan holders effective January 1, 2009.

Patients and doctors alike are calling on both Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) - the agency which manages health care benefits for all Federal employees - to fully restore benefits for patients on the Standard Option plan to their 2008 levels, as well as extending the deadline for "Open Season" beyond December 8th.

Extending the deadline is critical because millions of Federal employees either don't know, or have just recently heard about these changes. Those employees need time to consider the consequences of staying or leaving the Federal Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Option plan.

At a Capitol Hill hearing on Wednesday, December 3, Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, urged OPM to extend the open enrollment deadline. Later that day U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) went a step further, calling on OPM to both extend the open enrollment deadline and fully restore the benefits cuts for Federal workers.

Also at the Wednesday hearing, Blue Cross Blue Shield's Stephen W. Gammarino indicated that he was open to both preserving the 2008 benefits and extending the open enrollment period beyond the 8th, but OPM's Nancy Kichak refused, seeming intent on delivering a lump of coal to the stocking of every Federal worker on the BCBS Standard option plan this holiday season.

Regardless of OPM's response, Gammarino should be encouraged to immediately make good on his pledge to change the 2009 plan so that these benefits cuts don't take effect.

In addition to a 13% increase in premiums, out-of-network benefits for procedures and surgeries will be severely curtailed. The policy change increases a patient's out-of-pocket cost to the first $7,500.00 for each procedure and surgery when using out-of-network providers, and imposes an out-of-pocket patient cost of up to $350.00 for care provided by an out-of-network emergency room consultant.

OPM has extended "Open Season" twice in the last several years: in 2006 and 2002.

To speak with an affected patient or doctor, please contact: Jason Miller at jmiller@dezenhall.com, or (202) 296-0263 x 136; or contact Gary Meltz at gmeltz@dezenhall.com, or (202) 296-0263 x 166.


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SOURCE DC Patients, Doctors and Healthcare Providers
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