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Van Hollen, Colleagues Successfully Fight to Make Protections for Federal Health Benefits During Government Shutdowns Law of the Land

January 14, 2020

Senators’ Bills Protecting Federal Healthcare Benefits in the Event of a Government Shutdown Now Law

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith
(D-Minn.), and
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.),  Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tim
Kaine (D-Va.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) fought to secure
protections for federal healthcare
benefits in the event of a government shutdown, and these measures were signed
into law in December as part of the National Defense Authorization Act
(NDAA). Similar bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House by the late
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who fought to include these measures in NDAA
before his passing.

The legislation ensures 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 last year’s shameful Trump shutdown, hundreds of thousands of civil servants were locked out of their jobs or forced to work without pay. What’s more, families experiencing life-changing events – like the birth or adoption of a child – were burdened by uncertain healthcare coverage. This provision ensures federal workers and their families will never again have to face that hardship. I will continue fighting to protect and support our federal workforce,” said Sen. Van Hollen. 

“I received a heartbreaking note from a furloughed
federal worker whose son was born prematurely during the most recent government
shutdown,” said
Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “There was uncertainty
surrounding what government functions were operating, and his family faced
confusion about the status of insurance coverage for their son’s stay at the newborn
intensive care unit. No family should have to deal with something like this. We fought hard to
make sure federal employees can always access their healthcare programs
regardless of politics. And that’s just what we did.” 

“Hardworking
federal employees should never be stuck in the middle of our fiscal crises, but
they have been — over and over again. Step by step we are working to ensure
these dedicated workers are held harmless,” said Sen. Cardin. “This new law
builds on our efforts to protect the pay of federal workers during federal shut
downs. It is our responsibility to assure these public servants, mostly middle
class and struggling to get by like so many others, that they will be able to
access their health benefits while carrying out their missions on behalf of the
American people. It is the right thing to do.” 

“President Trump proved during his last shutdown that he is
willing to betray workers and throw them into desperate situations if it serves
him politically. Federal workers should never face a gap in coverage for
reasons entirely outside of their control. This legislation will help ensure
workers can always take care of their families,” said.
Sen. Brown.  

“During the 35-day-long government shutdown, a furloughed federal
worker from Alexandria, Virginia told me that when a doctor prescribed
medication for his seven-week-old daughter, he couldn’t immediately get her on
his health insurance because his HR Department was furloughed too,” said
Sen. Kaine. “Our federal employees should never have to endure this
pain. I’m glad we were able to protect federal health benefits with this
legislation.” 

“During the 35-day shutdown last year, federal employees
across the Commonwealth were unable to make crucial adjustments to their health
plans in a timely fashion. DOJ
employee Brian Uholik, for example, had
trouble getting his newborn daughter enrolled in his health plan and on the
medication she needed. I cannot imagine the fear the Uholik family faced, or
that of any other family facing a similar situation during the President’s
irresponsible shutdown,” said Sen. Warner. “That’s why my colleagues and I are fighting to
protect health care coverage in case any President tries to take us down the
path of another disastrous shutdown.” 

Sen. Van Hollen, Sen.
Smith, and their colleagues first introduced
a pair of bills aimed at protecting federal health benefits during
government shutdowns in April of last year. 



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