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Federal Benefits Open Season is here! Each year, we encourage all eligible employees and retirees to review their health, dental, vision, and dependent care needs and to make changes to or enroll in one of the available benefit programs. Open Season is the time to make choices you generally cannot make at any other time of the year.
Remember, all health, dental, or vision plans are not alike. Open Season is about exercising your ability to choose the benefits that best meet you and your family’s needs. You have between now and December 12 to make your benefit decisions. Here is a link to learn more about the Federal Benefits Open Season.
The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program
The FEHB Program covers over 8.2 million employees, retirees, and their families all across this country. For 2017, there will be 245 health plans available, with 15 of them available nationwide. And remember, all FEHB Plans now offer the opportunity to enroll in a Self Plus One enrollment type. This option allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member who you designate, such as a spouse or child. If you did not take advantage of Self Plus One last year, you can do so for 2017. You can learn more about the FEHB Program on our dedicated Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.
Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)
For 2017, FEDVIP offers 10 dental plans, six of which are nationwide plans. There are also four vision plans, all available nationwide. Coverage under a FEDVIP dental or vision plan is a great way to fill in the gaps of any health plan coverage you now have or to help pay for services that are not covered or available under your FEHB health plan. Some highlights: FEDVIP offers adult orthodontia. In-network Class A dental services, such as oral exams, prophylaxis and topical application of fluoride, are free. And, you can enroll in a self-only vision plan for less than $3 per pay period. As always, check plan brochures for specific coverage and compare plans. You can learn more about FEDVIP on the Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.
Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS)
While retirees are not eligible to enroll, most employees are eligible. You should check with your agency’s human resources office to verify your eligibility. For those who are eligible, FSAFEDS offers three accounts to choose from: a health care account; a limited expense health care account; and a dependent care account. Participation in these accounts allows you to lower your taxable income by setting aside pre-tax money to pay for eligible health, dental, vision, and dependent care expenses, such as co-pays, prescription drug costs, orthodontics, eyeglasses, and child/elder care. As a reminder, there is now a “carry over” provision under which enrollees can carry over up to $500 of unused Health Care FSA money into the following year. This means that you won’t have to forfeit money you don’t use by the end of the calendar year. To take advantage of the carry over of 2016 funds, you must re-enroll for 2017.
To learn more about FSAs, how much you can contribute, how much you can save, and changes for the 2017 benefit period, head over to our Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.
Don’t forget, you have until December 12 to review your needs and those of your family and to make the choices that are right for you.
Most Federal employees make a decision about life insurance coverage when they join the Federal Government and rarely revisit that decision. But as the circumstances of our lives change, so does our need for protection.
Beginning on September 1 and continuing throughout the month, it will be Open Season for Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI). This is an opportunity for Federal employees and their families to consider what levels of protection might be appropriate for them and either to enroll in FEGLI for the first time or make changes to their coverage. The availability of life insurance coverage is just one of the comprehensive packages of health and other benefits available to all Federal employees.
Importantly, if you enroll for the first time or change your coverage, there will be no medical exam required and no health questions to answer. Paying for the coverage is simple: premiums are deducted from your paycheck.
Financial issues to take into consideration when making a life insurance coverage decision include preparing for burial expenses, medical costs, and the loss of salary and benefits when a loved one passes away. Additional child care costs, elder care costs, transportation needs, assistance with maintaining a home, and other lifestyle concerns may also be part of the equation.
As a Federal employee, you were probably automatically enrolled in FEGLI Basic insurance when you first joined the Federal service, unless you waived this coverage. Basic insurance covers your life for whichever is greater: Your annual rate of basic pay, rounded up to the next whole $1,000, plus $2,000; or $10,000. This is called the Basic Insurance Amount (BIA). The Government pays one-third of the premium cost for Basic and you pay two-thirds.
If more life insurance coverage is appropriate for your family, as a Federal employee you can add an additional $10,000 of coverage (Option A) and/or additional coverage in an amount one to five times your annual rate of basic pay (Option B).
Finally, with Option C, you can elect coverage on the lives of your spouse and eligible dependent children under age 22. You can have one to five multiples of Option C. Each multiple is worth $5,000 on the life of your spouse and $2,500 on the lives of each eligible child.
If you and your family are satisfied with your current FEGLI coverage, you don’t need to do anything. Employees can always elect coverage within 60 days of a FEGLI qualifying life event – such as marriage or the birth of a child - or at any time by passing a physical exam. If you elect to take a physical exam, you can select any coverage that FEGLI offers, except the Option C family coverage.
Employees and annuitants can cancel coverage, reduce coverage, or change beneficiaries at any time. As a reminder, this Open Season is a great time to update your beneficiaries if they don’t reflect your current wishes.
If you decide to enroll for the first time or change the coverage you have now, you should know that the coverage will take effect a year from now, during the first full pay period in October 2017, as long as you meet pay and duty status requirements, meaning you are actively working. For most biweekly employees, this means coverage will be effective on October 1, 2017. For most Postal employees, this means coverage will be effective on October 14, 2017.
Employees who are approaching retirement should note that all regular rules for continuing FEGLI into retirement still apply. This includes the requirement that for any types or multiples of coverage an employee wishes to bring with them into retirement, the employee must have that coverage throughout their last five years of Federal service, or their entire period or periods of service if they retire with less than five years of service.
So because coverage elected during the FEGLI Open Season will be effective no sooner than October 2017, if an employee wants to bring their open season coverage into retirement, they must retire in October 2022 or later, five years after the coverage they selected during Open Season becomes effective.
For more information on FEGLI Open Season and FEGLI in general, including current premium amounts, please visit: www.opm.gov/FEGLIopenseason
Federal benefits open season is here. Each year we encourage all employees and retirees to review their benefits and make sure that they have plans that work best for them and their families. From today through December 14, employees and retirees can review and update their health, dental, and vision choices. Eligible employees who are not currently enrolled can also select plans for the first time. Retirees not currently enrolled in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) can also select dental and vision plans for the first time during open season.
The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) covers over 8.2 million employees, retirees, and their families all across this country. For 2016, there will be 252 health plan choices available, with 11 of them available nationwide.
Beginning in 2016, all carriers will offer three enrollment types: Self Only, Self Plus One, and Self and Family. This year is your first opportunity to enroll in Self Plus One, which allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member, such as a spouse or child.
As always, we encourage you to look at all available health, dental, and vision plans and decide which ones best meet the needs of you and your family, as everyone’s needs are different. If you decide that your current coverage still works for you, you don’t have to do anything. Your benefits will remain in place for next year.
If you are eligible to sign up for the FEHB Program, you can also participate in FSAFEDS, the health and dependent care flexible spending account program. These accounts allow employees to set aside pre-tax money to pay for eligible health and dependent care expenses, such as co-pays, prescription costs and childcare.
Two changes were made to Health Care FSAs last year. Employees can enroll with just $100 contribution. Also, participants can re-enroll and carry over up to $500 of unused FSA money into the following year. This means that you won’t have to forfeit money you don’t use by the end of the calendar year.
If you want to participate in FSAFEDS, be sure to sign-up by December 14. When it comes to FSAFEDS, everyone must re-enroll on an annual basis.
Don’t forget, employees and retirees have until December 14 to make their choices. For more information about the Federal benefits open season and to find the right option for you, visit opm.gov/openseason.
John O’Brien is the Director of Healthcare and Insurance for OPM.
Today, I am excited to announce that the overall average premium increase for employee health benefits provided through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will be 3.2 percent for 2015.
The health insurance increase means employees with self-only coverage will pay an average $2.93 more in each bi-weekly pay period. Employees with family coverage can expect an average increase of $6.89 per pay period. The actual premium increases depend on which plans they choose.
These rate increases are proof that OPM continues to provide Federal employees, retirees and their families with the best possible coverage options. The FEHB Program delivers competitive rates and high quality benefits through an efficiently run system. These benefits also help us to attract and retain top talent in the Federal service. In 2015, there will be 257 health plans, with 11 of them available nationwide.
Also, as a result of the President’s Affordable Care Act, the FEHB program covers more than 400,000 young people between the ages of 22 and 26 under their parents’ plans. The ACA has not only expanded coverage for uninsured Americans, it has increased competition and accountability. Those improvements, along with the increased efficiency in the health care system, have resulted in lower cost increases in the FEHB and elsewhere. The FEHB Program offers comprehensive preventive services at no cost, also mandated by the ACA. And many plans provide incentives for participation in wellness activities.
This fall’s Open Season for health, dental and vision insurance, as well as for the flexible spending accounts, will be from November 10 to December 8. During that time, employees and retirees will have the chance to review their current plans and make any changes they desire for the following year. Eligible employees who are not currently a part of FEHB may also enroll for the first time. I urge all Federal employees to take this time to review their plan choices and decide what is best for their families.
This is also the first time employees will be able to enroll in the flexible spending account program for just a $100 minimum deposit. And for the first time, participants in the health care flexible spending account will be able to carry up to $500 of unused funds into the following year.
More detailed breakdowns of the FEHB Program premium rates and the FEDVIP rates are available at OPM.gov. Employees can also use some handy comparison tools on the site to find the plan that works best for them.
It is so important to me that everyone in our Federal family has the peace of mind to know that they and their loved ones are protected and covered for life’s health emergencies and for the preventive care that helps keeps us all safe and secure. I’m happy to report that once again, your FEHB Program is providing these benefits at a cost that is affordable to our deserving, hard-working Federal workforce.
I know everyone is inundated with holiday sales and limited time offers, but here is one limited time offer that you should pay attention to. This Monday, December 9, is the last day to make changes to your benefits for next year.
So why not take a few minutes today and review your options. Open Season allows for you to make changes to your Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) coverage, the amount of contributions to your Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS), and coverage for under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP).
If you want to stay in the same FEHB or FEDVIP plan, you don’t have to do anything. But remember, you have to re-enroll every year for the Flexible Spending Account program. Visit our Open Season website for general questions, to review plan options, and for all the information you’ll need. And if you still have questions, contact your agency human resources office.
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