The list of insults and injuries faced by government workers as the result of Donald Trump’s shutdown just keeps growing. As furloughed employees and those working without pay stare down their second missed paycheck, the Washington Post reports that some may be at risk of losing their dental and vision coverage.
During the shutdown, health insurance for federal workers is safe. But that doesn’t apply to all benefits. On Wednesday, the 800,000 furloughed federal workers were warned by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that they must pay the premiums due on their government-provided dental and vision insurance or they could lose them.
From the Post:
[S]tarting with their second missed paycheck at the end of this week, employees will be billed directly for premiums for dental and vision coverage. If the shutdown continues for another two weeks into a third missed pay period, the company that provides long-term care insurance to federal workers also will start billing them directly. [...]
It’s another consequence of the lapse in appropriations for nine large agencies and dozens of small ones. Because federal agencies are not disbursing money to employees while they’re closed, the government is not deducting premiums to pay insurance carriers.
The premiums for the Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program are generally reasonable, but finding any amount of extra cash can be hard if you aren’t getting paid. The vision program can cost between $3.09 to $20 every two weeks for a family, while the dental plan can cost families up to $76.80 every two weeks.
Many government workers are struggling to stay afloat as they miss paychecks. They are now owed a total of $6 billion in back pay from the government.
If workers can’t come up with this money to pay their premiums during the shutdown, they could have their coverage canceled. In that case, they wouldn’t be able to re-enroll until the enrollment period begins in November.