Congressman Cole Votes for New Benefits for Federal Employees
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Cole voted today for legislation that will establish a voluntary program under which federal employees may purchase supplemental dental and vision insurance through the Federal Employment Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). The Federal Employee Dental and Vision Benefits Enhancement Act of 2004 (S. 2657) passed today in the House.
"This legislation allows the Federal government to leverage its purchasing power to lower the cost of care to federal employees in order to provide the level of dental and vision benefits that most other employees in the United States already enjoy," Congressman Cole said. "In order to keep and retain quality employees, the government must provide for these basic health care needs."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Annual Report on Employee Benefits indicates that employees rank dental benefits as one of the top five benefit offerings. In 2003, 96% of private employers with 500 or more employees and 98% of employers with 20,000 or more employees provided dental benefits to their workforce. All states, except Kentucky and Mississippi, offer dental coverage to state employees.
The Federal Employment Health Benefit Program covers over 8.6 million individuals, including 2.2 million federal and postal employees, 1.9 million federal annuitants, and 4.5 million dependents.
"There are over 40,000 federal employees in Oklahoma and these workers deserve the same care as state employees and those working in the private sector," Congressman Cole said.
Minimal dental and vision benefits are currently available in the FEHBP because over 15 years ago, the Office of Personnel Management stopped allowing plans to add new dental and vision packages or to increase packages they already had in place. A recent review found:
- only 1 carrier in the FEHBP offered specific preventative dental care for children
- less than 1/3 offered preventative care for all ages
- less than 1/3 offered minor restorative dental care
- 1/5 offered any major restorative dental care
This legislation has already passed in the Senate and will now go to the President for his signature.