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As millions of Americans are benefiting from quality, affordable health care because of the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, I want to let you know that OPM’s Multi-State Plan program is making a difference in the lives of nearly 300,000 people who have chosen this option in the health law’s Marketplace.
Representatives of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association told lawmakers at a recent congressional hearing that 283,783 consumers signed up for an MSP option during the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period.
I am so proud of this accomplishment, especially since this was our first year running this program compared to the more than 50 years that OPM has administered the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. In this first year of the MSP program, consumers in 30 states and the District of Columbia had a MSP option as part of their health coverage choices.
It’s exciting to see that OPM is making an impact on the Health Insurance Marketplace. OPM staff is working to ensure that MSP options offer comprehensive benefits with strong consumer protections. With the MSP program in place, uninsured Americans now have even more choices for affordable coverage that works for them.
In this first year, we contracted with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, a long-time FEHB partner to provide MSP options. But I am looking forward to welcoming additional MSP issuers in the future so we can add even more competition to the Marketplace.
So if you have friends or family members who have lost their health insurance because of a major life event, please refer them to the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov, the Spanish version of the site. And it won’t be long before the next open enrollment for the Marketplace begins on November 15, 2014.
And make sure to put in a plug for OPM’s MSP program!
At the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, we know how important it is to take care of all aspects of the health of our Federal family and their loved ones at every stage of live. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I want to use this blog to start an important conversation. To be at our best at work, at home, and in our communities, we need to be mentally and physically healthy. If not addressed, reactions to stress, mental illness or substance abuse can disrupt our lives and the lives of those we love. The good news is that help is available and treatment works. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those you believe need help. Sometimes all it takes to avert a crisis is offering to connect a struggling friend, family member or co-worker with assistance.
Here at OPM and at agencies throughout the Federal government, I want to make sure that every employee knows where to turn if the need arises. Our Employee Assistance Program has trained counselors available 24/7 at 800-222-0364 to help with individual, family or workplace problems. An EAP counselor is also available by appointment in the OPM health unit every Wednesday and Friday by calling (202) 606-2140. Marital difficulty, parenting challenges, financial stresses, grief and work performance concerns are among the many issues EAP addresses daily. If short term counseling is not enough, EAP can provide referrals for ongoing care. All services are confidential and free of charge. Find out more on the Federal Occupational Health’s website.
Federal employees, retirees and families can also access mental health services through their Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plans. FEHB insurance carriers cover in-patient and out-patient mental health care along with substance abuse treatment.
Sadly, in the last few years we have mourned the loss of too many Americans who take their own lives. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) provides immediate assistance, connecting callers to a trained counselor at a local crisis center anytime day or night. As with any other emergency, if someone is in immediate danger, call 911.
I know that mental health can be difficult to talk about, but starting the conversation is critical to taking care of ourselves, supporting each other and saving lives.
Today, OPM kicked off the 2014 Presidential Rank Awards (PRA) process by asking agencies to nominate distinguished members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior Level (SL)/Scientific or Professional (ST) employees. These prestigious awards recognize these SES and SL/ST employees for sustained accomplishments over a period of years.
Awards programs such as the Presidential Rank Awards encourage excellence in Federal service, recognizing the accomplishments of the dedicated, hard-working men and women of the civil service. Awards are given in recognition of scientific breakthroughs, improvements in the delivery of service to the American people, and work that has or will result in the saving of billions of dollars for taxpayers. For example, one PRA finalist developed and executed a new contracting strategy for purchasing renewable energy at the Department of Defense that is projected to save $20 million. In another example, a PRA finalist at the Department of Commerce created the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) comprised of 750 companies and 1,800 individuals who are collaborating with the Federal government in developing smart grid standards that will help improve the energy usage and efficiency across the country.
As leaders in their agencies, nominees serve as role models for the entire workforce and must meet stringent personal and professional standards. Agencies are asked to consider the current challenging fiscal conditions and resources needed to meet overall agency mission priorities in determining the number of nominations to submit. Further, to ensure the continued integrity of the SES and SL/ST awards programs, all agencies are required to develop plans for the consideration of conduct, where appropriate, when determining performance awards for members of the SES or SL/ST employees. These plans will be made public on the agencies’ websites by September 30.
For last year, budgetary considerations due to sequestration limited the PRA program from granting any monetary awards. However, a list of 2013 finalists was selected based on nominations, and their accomplishments are recognized for their national and often international significance. Finalists from the FY 2013 class of nominations remain eligible to be re-nominated for FY 2014.
The Presidential Rank Awards recognize the exemplary achievements of individuals in service to the Federal government and the American people. The PRA, like other awards programs, is important to the continued and future success of our world-class workforce, and it serves as a source of pride and inspiration to all of us.
I look forward to reviewing the outstanding nominations.
This past weekend I had the honor of giving my first ever commencement speech to the 2014 graduating class of the University of Texas at Brownsville. What a great event!
This time of year is one of celebrations for many families across America, including many of the children of our 2 million strong Federal workforce and some Federal employees who I know are working and going to school at the same time. Congratulations to you all.
While in Texas, I also had the chance to meet with students, faculty and community leaders in Brownsville and at the University of Texas at Pan American.
I told them why I’ve dedicated so much of my time in the past few months talking to students and educators like them. It’s simple: there is almost no more important people to reach than those who will become the our workforce of the future.
I wanted them to know about the many opportunities out there for them, whether they want to work in Texas, or California, or North Carolina. I wanted them to know that there are opportunities available now – Pathways internships and entry-level positions at the Department of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and the Army – all in Texas. I wanted them to consider public service.
Delivering a commencement speech can be intimidating. But this wonderful crowd of nearly 700 graduates and thousands of their families and friends was welcoming and inspiring. More than 90 percent of the UT Brownsville student body is Hispanic. And 70 percent of Saturday’s graduates were the first in their family to go to college. So was I.
Families and friends revel in the accomplishment of a college degree. But it can also come with some anxiety. What now? Where do I go from here? It can be a scary prospect. But also an exciting one.
I urged the graduates to take their time and when they are to ready think about the next step in their lives. I told them to refuse to take no for an answer, that if you never let go of what ignites your passions, you will find a way to do what you love.
I gave one final piece of advice to the UT Brownsville Class of 2014. It’s advice I gave my own workforce in my first week at OPM.
Don’t just think about what’s possible. Strive for the impossible.
You never know what you will accomplish.
What a week!
This year we took Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) to a new level. Each year, PSRW is our opportunity to thank Federal employees for all of the work they do for the American people. This year we did things just a little differently.
We went big on social media. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram we asked Federal employees to thank their colleagues, friends, and neighbors using the hashtag #FEDSpirit. We received so many creative, funny, and heartfelt thank you’s.
On Tuesday I was invited to throw out the first pitch at National’s Park as a part of Federal Employee Recognition Night. We invited five of the employees that were recognized for their #FEDSpirit to join me on the field for the first pitch. While it wasn’t the best night for our home team, it was a truly great night out with each other.
You don’t see that every day.
And right here in OPM we’ve been showing our spirit throughout the building and in our offices around the country. We’ve been taking pictures showing off our #FEDSpirit. We’ve shared food and ice cream. And we’ve taken the time to give our employees brown bags, webcasts, and other useful information. These kinds of activities didn’t just happen here. Every government agency honored their Federal employees in their own way.
It’s important to honor not only the work Federal employees do, but the
people who do it. The people who care for our veterans, manage federal
programs, and fight forest fires. The people who keep our skies safe,
our water clean, and our mail flowing. The people who discover new
medicines, protect our children, and represent us around the world.
They put in the extra effort to get the job done.
I wrote an Op-Ed this week to highlight their great work. Variations of it ran in the Washington Post and in other newspapers around the country.
I’ve been traveling the country for the past few months meeting with Federal employees from nearly every agency and hearing their concerns, their dreams, and their ideas. And I always say thank you.
I am getting the word out in every way I can. I want Federal employees to know just how much they matter.
I don’t believe we should thank our Federal workforce only once a year. All our Federal employees deserve thanks and recognition year round.
So join me. Help us keep it up. Take time to thank you colleagues, your friends, and your neighbors.
I am so honored to lead such a dedicated, talented and strong workforce.
Happy PSRW. Thank you for all you do each and every day.
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