USPS 'Shirks Responsibility' to PSEs
(This article first appeared in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Health Plan Director John Marcotte
The APWU Health Plan receives complaints from members who were converted from Postal Support Employee (PSE) to career status and claim the USPS cancelled their health insurance without notification. My office deals with this situation as best as we can, but this is an issue that is the employer’s full responsibility.
The situation is unique for PSEs who have the USPS PSE health insurance, which is not part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) system. Upon conversion to career status, these employees are eligible for 60 days to sign up for FEHB health insurance plans. At the same time, the USPS determines that these employees are ineligible for their USPS PSE insurance and cancels their insurance.
My office is getting complaints from across the country that the USPS is not informing these new career conversions of their ability to sign up for FEHB health plans – and more importantly – that they are losing their USPS PSE coverage. Members are first becoming aware that they have no coverage while receiving medical care, being told they are uninsured!
This problem not only causes a gap in coverage between the date when the USPS plan was dropped and the start of their new FEHB insurance, but also means that if these unsuspecting members exceed the 60 days to sign up for career health insurance, they cannot sign up until the next open season or a “qualifying life event” – making their families uninsured that whole time.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requires that the USPS give 61-day notice when cancelling health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires 30-day notice when health insurance is being cancelled. The USPS shirking its responsibility to notify APWU members that their health care is getting cancelled is inexcusable.
Consider the APWU CDO
I want you all to be aware of this gross injustice so we can educate our brothers and sisters who are being converted. This situation will not happen to any PSE who has the APWU Consumer Driven Option (CDO) because it is a FEHB health plan. The only change these new careers will notice is a drop in premiums when they attain career status – with NO gap in coverage.
While the APWU CDO provides superior health care coverage at a lower cost to our PSE families, this situation is yet another reason to ensure all PSEs who have been reappointed after a year learn about the advantages of signing up for the APWU CDO. PSEsare eligible for the APWU CDO upon reappointment after a 360-day appointment, with a break in service of no longer than five days. After they are eligible and if the 60-day window elapses for PSEs to sign up for the APWU CDO, they can still sign up after any qualifying life event or during the next open season after reappointment.
Open Season Seminar
Health insurance is the highest dollar value benefit our members receive through union negotiations and is of paramount importance to every family. I urge all union leaders to learn as much as possible about the health benefits available to our members, and personally invite you all to attend the 2017 APWU Health Plan open season seminar, Oct. 17–19 in St. Louis, Missouri.
At this seminar, you will receive two days of intensive federal health insurance education, including a Question and Answer session with senior management of the APWU Health Plan and time to chat with the APWU Health Plan Board of Directors about your concerns.