Congress approves dental, vision

The House approved a bill today that will allow federal workers to purchase dental and vision coverage for their health plans. The legislation, previously passed by the Senate, now heads to the White House for President Bush's signature.

The legislation -- the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Benefits Enhancement Act -- allows federal employees and retirees to buy supplemental insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits program.

Although it is not free, the benefit addresses federal employees' complaints about the lack of dental and vision care coverage in their health benefits plans. That coverage is usually available in private-sector health plans.

"An overwhelming majority of private-sector plans provide dental and vision coverage," Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said. "In addition, there has been a groundswell among federal employees and annuitants -- more than any other benefit, they want better coverage for dental and vision care. That will change with the passage of this important legislation." Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, worked with his counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Susan Collins, (R-Maine), to get the benefit through Congress.

Employees will pay premiums themselves, but the legislation allows the federal government to use its purchasing power to lower the cost of the coverage, Davis said.

"This legislation addresses a glaring hole in the federal employee benefit package," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. However, she added that union officials continue to believe that the federal government should contribute funding toward these additional benefits.

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