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Frequently Asked Questions Insurance

In certain circumstances, entering or returning from a period of unpaid leave (leave without pay, or LWOP) by you, your spouse or covered dependent may constitute a qualifying life event.

If you are entering a period of LWOP (more than 31 days) you will have the option to terminate or continue your FEHB coverage. If you elect to continue your FEHB coverage, you must choose one of the options available to pay your share of the premium. These are the "Pay-as-you-go", and "Catch-up" options. In addition, under the IRS rules your agency may, but is not required to, offer a Prepay option.

Pay-As-You-Go

Under the Pay-As-You-Go option, you pay your share of the FEHB premium directly to your employing agency while on LWOP. These payments will generally be made with after-tax monies, since there is no pay from which to make deductions.  

Catch-Up

Most employees who have a period of LWOP choose to pay their FEHB premiums via the Catch-up option. Under this option, the agency remits your share of the FEHB premium to OPM while you are on LWOP. You incur an obligation to your employing agency and are required to repay it upon your return to pay status. The repayment of the amount owed will be treated on a pre-tax basis, if it's deducted from pay and you participate in premium conversion at the time the deduction is made. If you choose to repay the amount owed to your agency directly out-of-pocket your taxable income is not reduced.

Prepay

Your agency may (but is not required to) offer you the option to prepay your FEHB premium from salary before you go on a period of LWOP. The amount of FEHB premiums you prepay in advance may either be deducted from your pay or paid directly "out-of-pocket" to your agency. Payments made "out-of-pocket" do not reduce taxable income. The amount of FEHB premiums that you prepay will be treated on a pre-tax basis, if it is deducted from your pay and you participate in premium conversion. IRS rules limit the amount you may prepay on a pre-tax basis. If your period of LWOP will span two tax years, the amount that you may prepay on a pre-tax basis may not exceed the amount of FEHB premiums due for the remainder of the current tax year. If you wish to prepay the amounts due for the subsequent tax year as well, the deductions must be made after-tax. You may use the "Pay-As-You-Go" or Catch-up options for amounts due in the subsequent tax year.

Example

Sam A. participates in premium conversion and had $100 per month in FEHB premiums deducted from his pay. He will go on LWOP for three months beginning on October 31, 2002 and opts to continue his FEHB coverage. Mr. A. uses the pre-pay option to pay from his salary the $300 in FEHB premium payments that will be due while he is on LWOP. Mr. A. will receive pre-tax treatment for only $200 of his FEHB premium prepayment- the amount he will owe for the months of November and December 2002. The remaining $100 prepaid – the amount due for January 2003 – must be given after-tax treatment.

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