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Smith, coalition introduce bills protecting health care during government shutdowns

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Tim Kaine. D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., on Wednesday, April 3, introduced a pair of bills aimed at protecting federal healthcare benefit...

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Tim Kaine. D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., on Wednesday, April 3, introduced a pair of bills aimed at protecting federal healthcare benefits in the event of a government shutdown.

Similar bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House yesterday, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

The two bills introduced would amend current law to ensure that workers who have qualifying life events are able to make the proper adjustments to their health insurance plans and continue dental and vision benefits during lapses in federal funding.

"During the most recent government shutdown, I received a heartbreaking note from a furloughed federal worker whose son was born prematurely," stated Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, in a news release. "Because of the chaos surrounding what government functions were operating, his family faced confusion and uncertainty about the status of insurance coverage for their son's newborn intensive care unit stay-something no family should have to deal with. We have a responsibility to federal employees to make sure they always can access their healthcare programs, regardless of politics. And that is just what these bills set out to do."

According to the release, press reports during the recent shutdown indicated federal employees had difficulty obtaining health insurance coverage for their newborns because some agencies were not processing new enrollments or changes to enrollments.

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There were also reports of employees possibly losing coverage if they did not pay their premiums for dental, vision, and long-term care insurance because coverage would continue only for two or three pay periods, after which insurers would start billing employees directly.

Both bills are supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

Related Topics: HEALTHCARETINA SMITH
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