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Federal Employee Program Maintains Low Health Premiums In 2008
Date:9/13/2007

Single-digit percentage increases prove value of Basic and Standard Options

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Federal employees and retirees can expect continuing reliability and value from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association's (BCBSA) Government-wide Service Benefit Plan (Federal Employee Program or FEP(R)) in 2008.

FEP health premiums remain very competitive in 2008 and premiums for FEP BlueVisionSM will stay essentially unchanged from last year. Federal employees, retirees and their families will make their healthcare coverage decisions during the Federal Benefits Open Season which runs from Monday, Nov. 12, through Monday, Dec. 10.

In 2008, both FEP plan options will incur only single-digit premium increases. Basic Option's overall rate and employee out-of-pocket contribution will increase by 3 percent. Basic Option subscribers will see their biweekly out-of-pocket premium increase by $1.14 for single coverage and $2.67 for family coverage. Basic Option retirees' monthly single and family out-of-pocket premiums will increase by $2.47 and $5.79, respectively. These changes will go into effect on January 1, 2008.

Standard Option total premiums are increasing 4 percent for 2008. Due to the limitation on the federal government's maximum contribution, which is determined by a statutory formula, the increase for employees' biweekly out-of-pocket premium for Standard Option single coverage is $4.85, or 8.5 percent, and the increase for family coverage is $10.84, or 8.1 percent.

FEP's single-digit percentage increases are noteworthy. In 2007, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that nationwide, average annual premium increases for health plans other than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), were well into the double-digits starting in 2003. Within the FEHBP, the GAO noted that some 2007 rates were as high as 27.1 percent and that from 2005 to 2007, the average annual premium growth for the ten largest FEHBP plans was as high as 15.4 percent. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) projects the average cost increase for health expenses during 2005-2007 was nearly 6.8 percent. During this same time, FEP's average increase for both Standard and Basic Options combined was 4.9 percent.

"Federal employees and retirees can count on FEP for consistent, dependable benefits along with excellent choice and the broadest provider networks available," explained Stephen Gammarino, senior vice president, National Programs, BCBSA. "Young singles, families with children, and retirees all have different needs. The size of our provider networks coupled with the wide variety of choice and flexibility offers everyone the right plan - from basic coverage with low deductibles to a more comprehensive product - FEP has a plan for everyone."

Benefit enhancements for both Basic and Standard Options in 2008 include coverage for hearing aids for children and improved ambulance benefits. Other changes include an increase in the calendar year deductible for Standard Option. The annual deductible will increase for singles from $250 to $300 per year; for families, it will increase from $500 to $600 per year. Basic Option co-pays will not change for 2008.

The 2008 biweekly premiums for FEP BlueVisionSM, the one-year old separate FEP vision care product, remain unchanged for Self Only coverage and are increasing by $0.01 for both Self Plus One and Family coverage under both the High and Standard Options of this product. FEP BlueVisionSM links members to more than 25,000 ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, national and regional retailers. Its coverage includes: new glasses or contact lenses every 12 or 24 months; elective allowance for contact lens; one-year warranty on frames and lenses and discounts on laser eye surgery.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Government-wide Service Benefit Plan has been part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program since its inception in 1960. FEP covers roughly 4.7 million federal employees, retirees and their families out of the nearly eight million people (contract holders as well as their dependents) who receive their benefits through FEHBP. BCBSA works with the Office of Personnel Management to administer the Service Benefit Plan on behalf of the 39 independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 39 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for more than 99 million individuals -- nearly one-in-three of all Americans. For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit http://www.BCBS.com. For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Federal Employee Program, visit http://www.fepblue.org.


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SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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