US House Oks Retired Federal Workers Drug Benefit

July 9, 2003 ( - The United States House of Representatives has passed a bill to guarantee retired federal workers the same prescription drug benefits as current federal employees.

>The bill, HR 2631, requires that retirees covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) receive the same prescription drug coverage as active workers.   It is tailored to fit regardless of any possible changes in federal Medicare law that might add drug coverage at a lower rate, according to Washington-based legal publisher BNA.

>The guarantee is accomplished by ensuring that subsequent appropriators cannot move to reduce federal retiree drug benefits on the assumption that they now all will move to Medicare and its new drug benefit, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Tom Davis (R-Virginia), explained.   Overall, Davis said the law is necessary to prevent any unintended negative consequence to federal retirees caused by changes in Medicare coverage.   “One of the core concerns with a Medicare Rx benefit has long been that, in the attempt to provide for those without coverage, we would take from those with coverage,” Davis said in a statement.

>The bill was introduced June 26 and brought to the House floor without committee consideration under a suspension of the rules.   A day later, an identical Senate companion bill, S 1369, was introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).   With Akaka’s introduction, he withdrew his earlier proposed amendment to include the federal retiree drug benefit protection to the Senate’s Medicare drug coverage efforts.

The Senate bill was referred to the Governmental Affairs Committee.