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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.
Five years ago, President Obama signed an Executive Order that created Pathways, a group of internship programs that serve as a clear expression of the value the Federal government places on recruiting and retaining students and recent college graduates for public service careers. These programs are also shining examples of one of my highest priorities as Director of OPM – to create a skilled federal workforce that reflects the diversity of the American people.
On Monday, OPM hosted its first Pathways Programs Day, a comprehensive training event held at NIH for current Pathways participants. We brought them together to discuss the future of the Federal workforce and to receive information about skills training and continuing education opportunities. These young people also heard from some remarkable public servants who credit their success, in part, to their participation in Pathways.
Pathways includes three programs: an internship for current students; the Recent Graduates Program for people who have graduated within the past two years, and the Presidential Management Fellows Program for people who have received an advanced graduate or professional degree in the past two years.
One of our panelists Monday was Nigel Simon. Nigel began his Federal service as a Pathways intern and is now a member of the Senior Executive Service. He works at the EPA. Raised in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nigel’s 17-year Federal career began when he went to USAJOBS.gov and applied for the forerunner of Pathways, the Student Career Experience Program.
Nigel said the skills he developed in Pathways helped prepare him for his career. He has worked for a variety of offices at the EPA, including in the New York City region, which covers his home in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. When Nigel spoke with Pathways participants on Monday, he urged them to follow one of his early mentor’s advice: Soak up as much as you can from each experience you have.
Today Nigel pays forward that early mentoring he got by serving as a mentor himself, to students and young hires just entering public service. “I do one shadow assignment every six months,” Nigel said.
Channing Martin, a native of Washington, D.C., started her Federal career as an intern at OPM. She used Pathways to rise to the next level, securing an apprenticeship working with our SES team, the CHCO and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “I had a rotation set up and got a lot of experience that way,” she said.
After she received her graduate degree, Channing became a Presidential Management Fellow. Today, she still works at OPM, helping to recruit and award applicants to that Pathways program. She specializes in recruiting from the STEM disciplines -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
I think I will give Channing the last word about Pathways for those just starting their careers in public service or preparing to go to the next level.
“From my grad school, the Big Five consulting firms are coveted,’’ Channing said. “I want the Federal government to be regarded that way.”
So do I Channing. Showcasing our successful and talented public servants like Nigel and Channing will help us get the word out about our remarkable employees and the terrific Pathways programs that provide an entry to the satisfying work of public service.
As I celebrate my one-year anniversary as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, I have reflected on OPM’s accomplishments over the past few months. I think about how honored I am to be a part of a team that has done so much for the American people. And today I hosted a digital town hall to talk about how OPM will continue to move America’s Workforce forward in the coming years.
As Director, I have met so many Federal employees from across the country. Their wisdom and their suggestions have enlightened me and guided me. Their feedback and input inspired us to create a new initiative that focuses on how we can recruit, develop, and engage a diverse workforce for today and for the future. I’m calling this initiative REDI, which stands for Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion.
When it comes to recruitment, REDI will help us hire more people like the guests I highlighted at today’s town hall. Gioia Massa, whom I met at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is living her childhood dream of growing plants in space. Miriam Martin, whom I visited with at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, is a woman veteran who wants to use her military logistics skills in Federal service. And Matthew Gonzales, a young man I met in Los Angeles who works on satellite communications for the Air Force. There are many Gioias, Miriams, and Matthews, driven by innovation and imagination, who want to be a part of the Federal family. REDI will help hiring managers bring such talented people into their agencies.
With the REDI initiative, we are also rethinking how we better recruit and communicate with job-seekers. And as our workforce ages, we need to focus on recruiting more young people. The millennial generation wants to work at places where they can innovate and make their marks. We are increasingly using social media to reach them, and that outreach will continue to grow in the coming months. We also must create the right pipelines for people to come into government. That’s why we are enhancing Pathways, OPM’s programs for student interns, recent graduates, and Presidential Management Fellows. Pathways participants get a taste of government service through fulfilling experiences that include training and real-work exposure. And then maybe, they will join the next wave of Federal employees.
I will be talking more about our efforts in the coming weeks and months and I look forward to sharing them in more detail with you. This past year has taught me that Federal employees are constantly looking for better ways to do their jobs better and to serve the American people. I know that REDI will help them do that.
So thank you to my Federal family for an incredibly rewarding first year. Thank you for all you do each and every day to serve America. Going forward together, we will continue to show every American that they are served by a mission-driven, talented, and model Federal workforce.
Today I have an update on a program that provides health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of Americans: the Multi-State Plan (MSP) Program. The Affordable Care Act created the MSP program to foster competition and bring consumers more choices in the Health Insurance Marketplace.
I first wrote about the MSP Program earlier this year. At that time, we were still evaluating the program’s results for the 2014 health plan year. Now that we have a full year of the program under our belt, I am happy to announce that we offered more than 150 MSP options in 31 states, including the District of Columbia, and enrolled more than 370,000 individuals into MSP plans.
This is a strong start for a brand new program, and we are working to offer these types of plans in even more states in 2015 and beyond. OPM is adding a second health insurer in 2015. The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans are joining the program and will sell MSP options alongside the Blue Cross Blue Shield MSP options in the Health Insurance Marketplace. CO-OPs are a relatively new type of health insurer. They are non-profit organizations that are customer-driven. They are designed to offer consumer-friendly, high-quality health insurance options. The addition of the CO-OPs to the MSP Program will help advance OPM’s role in making sure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance.
In addition to adding a second health insurer in 2015, we are expanding the MSP Program into five additional states, for a total of 36 states, including D.C. We will offer more than 200 MSP plan options.
Beginning November 15, you can sign up for an MSP option, or another health insurance plan, through HealthCare.gov or CuidadodeSalud.gov. If you have questions, call 1-800-318-2596. So if you have friends or family members who need health insurance, be sure to share this information with them.
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