Insurers Battle Over Federal Employees' Health Coverage

Two of the nation’s leading forces in health insurance -- UnitedHealthcare and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association -- faced off Thursday before Congress in a battle over control of the $47 billion program that covers 8 million federal employees, retirees and their families.

UnitedHealthcare wants to change a 1959 federal law that it says allows the nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans to dominate the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB). Blues plans now cover almost two-thirds of the people in the program, often described as the nation’s best run employer-sponsored coverage because of its wide choice and efficiency.

The Obama administration backs efforts by UnitedHealthcare and other for-profit insurers to allow regional PPO-style health plans to compete to cover federal employees, saying that will help hold down costs and offer the types of plans more typical in the private market. PPOs give members a wide choice of providers but require them to pay more if they go outside of a network.

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Source: Kaiser Health News