- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

Working for Uncle Sam has it benefits — probably the best in the nation.

There are lifetime annuities based on salary and length of service that are indexed to inflation, more vacation days and holidays than most private firms and a cradle-to-grave insurance plan for workers and surviving spouses that is funded largely by the government.

The one dim spot in the otherwise bright federal health insurance plan has been dental coverage. Federal and postal workers prosper under the plan until they develop problems with their teeth.

Dental coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP), which covers more than 9 million people, has never been good. Although better than many private-sector health plans — some of which have a lifetime limit of $1,000 for dental coverage — the federal dental perk is nothing to smile about.

The good news is that sometime this year the government will offer a new package of optional dental health benefits.

The not-so-good news, for long-suffering feds and retirees, is that they will have to pay extra for the dental coverage and none of the options offered likely will pay 100 percent of the costs for anything, except perhaps for relatively small deductibles for things like certain kinds of preventive care.

So relief of sorts is on the way, and things will be better and less costly for those who purchase the extra coverage. But, like your mother said, that doesn’t mean you should stop brushing after meals and flossing before bedtime. Even cradle-to-grave coverage — given the high cost of dental procedures — will cover only so much.

Retiree raises

Retirees — under the civil service or military plans or Social Security — already have banked at least 1.9 percent toward their cost-of-living adjustment in January. If living costs go up between now and Sept. 30, the COLA will rise with it.

The increase is set by law and is automatic. Congress and the White House can’t, or won’t, block it.

Meanwhile, Congress and the administration continue to battle over the size of the federal pay raise.

Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

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