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Today’s day-after-Thanksgiving sales kick off the holiday shopping season. But today isn’t just about shopping for the softest sweater or the hottest new toy. It’s also a great time to shop for the perfect health plan for you and your family.
With just about a week left in the Federal benefits open season, why not focus on determining whether your current plan is the best one for you. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have the right coverage for your family? Are there other options you should consider? Are you getting the best value?
I am proud to report that OPM’s Health Care and Insurance team recently earned national recognition for its efforts to improve the health of employees, retirees, family members, and newly insured Americans.
Our team’s efforts to deliver high quality, affordable health care have been recognized in two reports to Congress about quality and prevention. The National Strategy for Quality and Improvement in Health Care Annual Report highlights efforts that support OPM’s Healthier Americans strategic goal. The National Prevention Council’s Annual Status Report features OPM initiatives to expand insurance coverage for Tribal employees, provide Employee Assistance Program resources to our Federal workers, and reinforce preventive services like timely flu shots.
We work closely with our Federal Employees Health Benefits and Multi-State Plan Program health insurance carriers to help achieve these results.
I’m also pleased to share that we've seen more FEHB plans achieve “Most Improved” and “Exemplary” status each year since we started tracking scores for health care quality. These scores demonstrate how well plans deliver care for such common conditions as diabetes and high blood pressure, and how effectively they screen for health risks.
What does this news mean for you and your family? Many people don’t know that having good quality health coverage means they may be able to prevent or better care for chronic diseases. Sadly, high blood pressure contributes to approximately 1,000 deaths every day and at least 25 percent of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Better screening and control save lives. Preventing chronic diseases helps us stay healthy, active, productive, and connected to those who depend on us. So your plan’s performance matters. Check out OPM’s Quality Scores page for your plan’s rating.
Health needs change from year to year and it’s important to make sure your plan is still the best one for you and your family. Take a look at our FEHB Open Season page for key information and answers to your questions.
Nothing is more important than your and your family’s health. Take some time this Black Friday and over the weekend to review your plan and consider whether it’s time for a change. And, don’t forget, open season ends December 8.
As we head into the busy holiday season, I want to take a moment to thank my OPM family and the entire Federal workforce for your incredible work, passion, and dedication to serving the American people.
I am very thankful that in my first year as Director of OPM, I have been able to meet so many of you across the country and see firsthand the work you do. The commitment you all have to the missions of your agencies is plain to see. Here at OPM, I see that passion and drive every day, and I am incredibly thankful for the best team I could have possibly asked for. I especially want to recognize those families who are apart from their loved ones this year. So many public servants and military service members will spend this holiday season far away from home. We honor and appreciate their sacrifices and look forward to their safe return home.
And I wish a safe journey to all of you who will be traveling over the holiday. As for me, I will be at home in Colorado with my husband and our daughter, Graciela, celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. I will be thinking about how thankful I am to be able to work with all of you on making Federal service the best it can be.
One of our greatest challenges at OPM is to help agencies grow and develop our Federal leaders of the future. That is why I convened a series of Thought Leader talks this fall, and I’m pleased to report that the three sessions provided us with new information, inspiration, and vision to guide OPM in meeting that challenge.
The sessions brought together leaders from government, business, academia and global organizations to talk about the future of leadership and how we can address challenges and opportunities. We focused on millennials because we know that they are the future of the American workforce, as well as innovative new practices around leadership development, assessment and engagement. And while we have to think about the leaders of today and those who will come after them, we must also plan for tomorrow.
We also talked about how work may take many new forms in the coming years. In our first session, we discussed how email could be replaced by new forms of communication. We talked about working more virtually. If the current move toward telework continues, virtual work will increase, with some employees never stepping foot in a traditional office.
We are already starting to use new technologies to be more strategic in our recruiting. Many organizations, including the U.S. Army, are turning to a new type of assessment for applicants. Instead of just analyzing resumes, managers are using a situation-based simulation that allow them to assess an applicant’s choices and skills. It’s one of the most innovative and useful tools I’ve seen in the recruiting realm.
Most importantly, we examined leadership. We discussed how we need to look at leadership differently. Leaders must be outcome-driven to be successful. That includes judging those who work for us on what they do well rather than on what they do poorly. Marcus Buckingham, a noted business consultant and thinker, led an impressive discussion on his strategy of emphasizing employee strengths for assessment of performance management and engagement. Marcus talked about the value of focusing on coaching to help employees succeed in their jobs and grow in their careers. It’s a different way of thinking, and it is one of the discussions that made the biggest impact on me.
Each one of these sessions inspired my thinking about how I will help managers across government grow and develop our talented and hard-working Federal workforce. We already have begun work on several initiatives to strengthen our leadership pipeline, including a Senior Executive Service mentoring program, a coaching network, and a special onboarding web page for new members of the SES.
I look forward to convening more sessions in the future. The dialogue we fostered was meaningful for every member of the group. And we helped each other bring our own worlds closer together. We are all determined to recruit, develop, and retain the leaders of tomorrow.
One of the Chief Human Capital Officers attending the sessions summed it up best. As we were leaving Tuesday’s final talk, she told me that the Thought Leader talks were the most important set of professional discussions she had ever been a part of.
I totally agree.
It’s open season time again, and I want to make sure you have all of the answers you need to your questions about your Federal benefits to help you make these important decisions.
At 11 a.m. on Monday, November 24, 2014, OPM is hosting a special Google Hangouts question and answer session. Four of OPM’s program experts will be available to answer your questions on health care, vision, dental, and flexible spending account benefits.
During open season, FEHB participants need to decide whether to keep their current health plans or change them. You should review the FEDVIP options and consider whether to enroll in FSAFEDS for the following year. If you are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program but do not currently participate, you can sign up for the first time.
To prepare for the Google Hangout and to help get familiar with the choices available to you, I suggest you check out the Circle ‘Round Your Benefits, Plan Comparison, and Plan Smart Choice tools. We want to help you make the best choice for you and your family.
The questions and answer session should address any questions you have about the benefits you have available to you and also any features in the plans. Changes for the coming year include a lower minimum deposit requirement for the FSAFEDS Program. You can also roll over up to $500 to the following year.
Our experts can clarify terms and help you compare plan features. It’s the perfect way to make sure you have the best information at your fingertips to make a decision by the December 8 deadline.
Ask your question on Twitter or the Google Hangout page using hashtag #FedBenefits. Start asking them now and tune in to see if your question is answered. And be sure to join us on Monday.
By now, we’ve all heard of the Great American Smokeout. The national event, organized by the American Cancer Society, encourages Americans to make a plan to quit smoking or to make November 20 the first day of a cigarette-free life. I couldn’t agree more. What a great moment to give yourself the gift of health and long life!
The 2013 Federal Employee Benefits Survey (FEBS) Tobacco Use Report showed that six out of 10 Federal employees who currently smoke are considering quitting. We want to help you get there.
The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program offers resources to help employees stop smoking, including free tobacco cessation counseling and medications. To take advantage of this benefit, check out the details on our Quit Smoking Resource Page. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which approach is best for you.
Quitting provides immediate and long-term health benefits. It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your own health and your family’s well-being. It can lower your chances of getting many serious diseases, including heart disease, lung disease, infections, osteoporosis, and many types of cancer.
I also urge you to reach out to teenaged children who may be struggling with smoking. Teenagers know that tobacco is bad for them. What they may not know is that even the first few cigarettes can cause real damage. The Department of Health and Human Services’ “The Real Cost” campaign aims to reduce the number of teens who experiment with smoking and become lifelong tobacco users. The campaign gives them the facts so that they can judge for themselves.
So if you are considering quitting, you have already taken the first step toward health. And if you’ve tried before, there’s no better time to try again. You are not alone and you can succeed. Take advantage of the many free and convenient programs the FEHB offers.
Today is the day to take your first step towards a smoke-free life.
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