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Healthcare Reference Materials

 

Overview

Federal Benefits FastFacts

The Federal Benefits FastFacts provides basic information about the Federal Benefits Programs administered by the Insurance Services Programs at OPM. We will issue FastFacts throughout the year so be sure to check back with us.

Federal Employees Health Benefits Handbook

The Handbook is a source of detailed guidance on the FEHB Program for both agency officials and enrollees.

Enrollment Form (SF 2809)

The Health Benefits Election Form.

Frequently Asked Questions

See the answers to many questions about the FEHB Program.

Benefits Administration Letters

Keep up to date with the Federal benefits programs.

Guide to Federal Benefits

The Guide includes information about the five Federal Benefits Programs. The Guide explains the relationship among the Programs, provides guidance on making enrollment decisions and has instructions for employees during Open Season.

Quick Guide to FEHB, FEDVIP, FLTCIP, FSAFEDS, and FEGLI

The Quick Guide provides answers to 37 common questions and enables you to see the similarities and differences of these programs.

The FEHB Program and Medicare Booklet

This booklet answers questions about how the FEHB Program and Medicare work together to provide health benefits coverage to active or retired Federal employees coverage by both programs.

Patients' Bill of Rights

In March of 1997, President Clinton appointed the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry (Commission) to advise him on changes occurring in the health care system. He asked the Commission to recommend measures necessary to promote and assure health care quality and value, and protect consumers and workers in the health care system. The Patients' Bill of Rights is the result of that commission.

Regulations

See the regulations which govern the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Legislation

Legislation for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

A Handbook for Attorneys on Court-ordered Retirement, Health Benefits and Life Insurance

Handbook to guide attorneys through court ordered retirement, health benefits and life insurance.

Directory of Agency Headquarters Benefits Officers

A list of the headquarters level agency Benefits Officers.

FedFlex Plan Document

The official plan document that governs pre-tax programs sponsored by OPM, including flexible spending accounts (FSAFEDS), health benefits premium conversion (FEHB), and dental and vision insurance (FEDVIP).

Benefits Administration Letters

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has Government wide responsibility and oversight for Federal benefits administration. These pages contain the Benefits Administration Letters (BALs) used for program administration. The BALs provide guidance to agencies on various aspects of Federal administration.

Benefits Administration Letters (BALs)
BAL NumberDateSubject
100 Series – Retirement Policy and Process Issues
No 2015 BALs in this category yet
200 Series – Insurance Policy and Process Issues
15-202 05/2015 Employer Shared Reporting Responsibilities under Internal Revenue Code Sections 6056 and 4980H
15-201 02/2015 Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program: New Addresses for the Office of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI)
300 Series – Payroll and Financial Management Guidance
15-301 02/2015 Instructions Regarding Requirement for Agencies’ Payments to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund for VERA and VSIP Processing Costs for FY 2015 under the Consolidation and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015
Attachment 1: AFY 2015 VERAs, VSIPs PROCESSING COSTS UNDER CONSOLIDATION & FURTHER CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2015, P.L. 113-235 REMITTANCE REPORT FOR FY 2015 VERAs
Attachment 2: FEDWIRE Instructions
Attachment 3: ACH Credit Instructions
400 Series – Federal Benefits Open Season Guidance
No 2015 BALs in this category yet
800 Series – Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Issues
15-801 02/2015 The Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS): 2015 Administrative Fees

For prior year BALs, please visit our BAL pages.

Patients' Bill of Rights

What is the Patients' Bill of Rights?

In March of 1997, President Clinton appointed the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry (Commission) to advise him on changes occurring in the health care system. He asked the Commission to recommend measures necessary to promote and assure health care quality and value, and protect consumers and workers in the health care system.

The Commission was comprised of 34 members, selected from the private sector. Members included representatives of consumers, institutional health care providers, health care professionals, other health care workers, health care insurers, health care purchasers, State and local government representatives, and experts in health care quality, financing, and administration.

The President asked the Commission to develop a "Consumer Bill of Rights" in health care and to provide him with recommendations to enforce those rights at the Federal, State, and local level. The Commission gave the President a report entitled the Consumer Bill of Rights (Patients' Bill of Rights) in November of 1997.

The President then asked the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense to assess the level to which their health care programs were in compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights (PBR). After this compliance assessment, the President directed these agencies by Executive Memorandum to adopt any measures necessary to come into full compliance with the PBR. This Executive Memorandum required the FEHB Program to be in full contractual compliance with the PBR by the end of 1999. OPM worked with health carriers throughout 1998 and 1999 to fully implement the PBR. The FEHB Program is now in full compliance with the President's Patients' Bill of Rights.

Objectives of the Patients' Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

The Patients' Bill of Rights and Responsibilities has three major objectives:

First, to strengthen consumer confidence by assuring the health care system is fair and responsive to consumers' needs, provides consumers with credible and effective mechanisms to address their concerns, and encourages consumers to take an active role in improving and assuring their health.

Second, to reaffirm the importance of a strong relationship between patients and their health care professionals.

Third, to reaffirm the critical role consumers play in safeguarding their own health by establishing both rights and responsibilities for all participants in improving health status.

Eight Principle Areas of Rights and Responsibilities

I. Information Disclosure

Patients have the right to receive accurate, easily understood information to help them make informed decisions about their health plans, professionals and facilities. The FEHB Program provides extensive information about benefits, customer satisfaction, delivery systems, health plan operating procedures and review rights through enrollment guides, plan brochures, and on the OPM website. Your FEHB plans make even more information available to you through their websites, provider directories, telephone numbers, or information sheets. Your plan may also refer you to plan providers or facilities for some information. However, if you are unable to get the information, the plan will assist you.

So that you can make informed health care decisions, your plan will make available to you, or aid you in obtaining, the following information:

About the Plan and Care Management:

  • Accreditation status
  • Compliance with State or Federal licensing, certification, or fiscal solvency requirements, if applicable, including the date the requirements were met.
  • Disenrollment rate (FEHB Open Season losses / Dec 31 enrollment = %)
  • Years in existence (corporate)
  • Corporate form (profit/non-profit, private/public)
  • Compliance with standards (State, Federal, and private accreditation) that assure confidentiality of medical records and orderly transfer to caregivers
  • Methods of compensation, ownership or interest in health care facilities.
  • Disclosure of the credentials of the person, or persons, involved in reviewing the patient's appeal.
  • Experimental/investigational determination process
  • Customer satisfaction measures
  • Preauthorization and utilization review procedures used to approve care
  • Clinical protocols, practice guidelines and utilization review standards being used to direct a patient's care
  • Mandatory or voluntary disease management programs or programs for persons with disabilities and significant benefit differentials if any
  • Formulary drug inclusion and exception process
  • Whether a patient's medication is included in the plan's formulary, and if not, how the patient can request a waiver to allow coverage for the particular medication at preferred cost-sharing levels

About Networks and Providers:

  • Number of primary care and specialty providers
  • Name, education, board certification status and geographic location of all contracting primary and specialty care providers; whether they are accepting new patients; language(s) spoken and availability of interpreters (for non-English speaking and those with communication disabilities); and whether their facilities are accessible to the disabled
  • Provider compensation, including base payment method (e.g., capitation, salary, fee schedule) and additional financial incentives (e.g., bonus, withhold, etc.)

About All Professional Providers:

  • Corporate form of provider practice
  • Names of hospitals where physicians have admitting privileges
  • Years in practice as a physician and as a specialist if so identified
  • Accreditation status
  • Cancellation, suspension, or exclusion from participation in Federal programs or sanctions from Federal agencies; any suspension or revocation of medical licensure, Federal controlled substance license, or hospital privileges
  • Experience with performing certain medical or surgical procedures (e.g., volume of care/services delivered), adjusted for case mix and severity
  • Consumer satisfaction, clinical quality and service performance measures

About Facilities:

  • Names, accreditation status, and geographic location of hospitals, home health agencies, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities; whether they are accepting new patients; language(s) spoken, and availability of interpreters (for non-English speaking and those with communication disabilities), and whether they are accessible to the disabled
  • Corporate form
  • Consumer satisfaction, clinical quality and service performance measures
  • Whether facility specialty programs meet guidelines established by specialty societies or other bodies
  • Complaint procedures
  • Whether facility has been excluded from any Federal health programs
  • Volume of certain procedures performed
  • Numbers and credentials of providers of direct patient care
  • Whether the facility's affiliation with a provider network would make it more likely that a consumer would be referred to health professionals or other organizations in that network.

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II. Choice of Providers and Plans

Consumers have the right to a choice of health care providers that is sufficient to ensure access to appropriate high-quality health care.

With almost 300 plans with delivery systems that include managed fee-for-service, preferred provider organizations, health maintenance organizations and point-of-service products, FEHB enrollees can choose among a broad range of health plans and providers. In implementing the Bill of Rights, we have assured that all participating carriers have the appropriate procedures in place to ensure access to high-quality health care.

For example, all plans in the FEHB Program provide:

  • Direct access to women's health care providers for routine and preventative health care services.
  • Direct access to a qualified specialist within your network of providers if you have complex or serious medical conditions that need frequent specialty care. Authorizations, when required by a plan, will be for an adequate number of direct access visits under an approved treatment plan.
  • Transitional care. If you have a chronic or disabling condition and your health plan terminates your provider's contract (unless the termination is for cause), you may be able to continue seeing your provider for up to 90 days after the notice of termination. If you are in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, you may continue seeing your OB/GYN until the end of your postpartum care.

If you have a chronic or disabling condition or are in your second or third trimester of pregnancy and your health plan drops out of the FEHB Program, you may be able to continue seeing your provider if you enroll in a new FEHB plan. You may continue to see your current specialist after your old enrollment ends, even if he or she is not associated with your new plan, for up to 90 days after you receive the termination notice or through the end of postpartum care, and pay no greater cost than if your old enrollment had not ended.

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III. Access to Emergency Services

Consumers have the right to access emergency health care services when and where the need arises. Health plans use a "prudent layperson" standard in determining eligibility for coverage of emergency services. Coverage of emergency department services are available without authorization if you have reason to believe your life is in danger or you would be seriously injured or disabled without immediate care.

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IV. Participation in Treatment Decisions

Consumers have the right and responsibility to fully participate in all decisions related to their health care. Consumers who are unable to fully participate in treatment decisions have the right to be represented by parents, guardians, family members, or other conservators.

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V. Respect and Nondiscrimination

Consumers have the right to considerate, respectful care from all members of the health care system at all times and under all circumstances. An environment of mutual respect is essential to maintain a quality health care system.

Consumers must not be discriminated against in the delivery of health care services consistent with the benefits covered in their policy or as required by law.

Consumers who are eligible for coverage under the terms and conditions of a health plan or program or as required by law must not be discriminated against in marketing and enrollment practices based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, or source of payment.

FEHB statute and regulations prohibit discriminatory practices in the FEHB Program.

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VI. Confidentiality of Health Information

Consumers have the right to communicate with health care providers in confidence and to have the confidentiality of their individually identifiable health care information protected. Consumers also have the right to review and copy their own medical records and request amendments to their records.

The privacy provisions already in place ensure that patient confidentiality is protected under the FEHB Program. We have ensured that carriers arrange with all their contracting providers so that you can review, copy, and request amendment to your medical records.

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VII. Complaints and Appeals

All consumers have the right to a fair and efficient process for resolving differences with their health plans, health care providers, and the institutions that serve them, including a rigorous system of internal review and an independent system of external review.

The FEHB Program has had an external review process in place for the last 20 years. Our disputed claims process ensures an independent review of disputes between participating carriers and our enrollees.

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VIII. Consumer Responsibilities

In a health care system that protects consumers' rights, it is reasonable to expect and encourage consumers to assume reasonable responsibilities. Greater individual involvement by consumers in their care increases the likelihood of achieving the best outcomes and helps support a quality improvement, cost-conscious environment.

You as a consumer can make a significant contribution in these key areas:

  • Maximize healthy habits e.g., exercising, not smoking, and eating healthy diet.
  • Become involved in care decisions.
  • Work collaboratively with providers in developing and carrying out agreed-upon treatment plans.
  • Disclose relevant information and clearly communicate wants and needs.
  • Use the FEHB Program disputed claims process when there is a disagreement between you and your health plan. The process is described in your plan brochure.
  • Become knowledgeable about coverage and health plan options, including covered benefits, limitations, and exclusions, rules regarding use of network providers, coverage and referral rules, appropriate processes to secure additional information, and process to appeal coverage decisions. This information is in your plan brochure.
  • Show respect for other patients and health workers.
  • Make a good-faith effort to meet financial obligations.
  • Report wrongdoing and fraud to appropriate resources or legal authorities. The OPM Fraud Hot Line number is 202/418-3300.

FEHB enrollees should educate themselves with respect to specifics of benefit coverage and to learn how to access health care and services by using the information provided in FEHB enrollment information, plan brochures, and on the OPM website.

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FEHB Regulations

The U.S. Government Printing Office website will allow you to access the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program regulations and link Federal Employees Health Benefits Program regulations.

Once in this website, select Title 5; then select Chapter 1 Parts 700-1199; then select Part 890 for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program or Part 891 for Retired Federal Employees Hleath Benefits.

PDF documents downloaded from this site will be named "get-crf", and will not have the standard .PDF file ending. You will need to either tell your browser to use Adobe Acrobat to read the file, or save it to your hard disk and rename it, including adding the file extension "PDF", in order to view it.

Regulations Documents

Code of Federal Regulations
Title 5 - Administrative Personnel
Chapter I - Office of Personnel Management

Part 890 - Federal employees health benefits program

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Part 891 - Retired federal employees health benefits

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Legislation

Health Information Technology

Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program Health Information Technology and Price/Cost Transparency

Over the past few years, OPM has encouraged FEHB health benefits plans to increase their use of health information technology (HIT). HIT can help your health plan and healthcare providers deliver safer more efficient care. Using HIT, your health plan can offer you tools to help you organize your health information, access information targeted to your health needs, and determine the quality and price/cost of the doctors, hospitals and other providers that you and your family use for day-to-day healthcare needs.

HIT based on broadly accepted standards, allows patients, healthcare providers and health plans to share information securely, driving down costs by avoiding duplicate procedures and manual transactions. More importantly, HIT reduces medical errors; for instance, from misread handwritten prescriptions, and emergency care medical decisions made without complete and accurate health information. HIT can also help you find appropriate health information to aid you and your doctor in making appropriate clinical decisions regarding your care. Since privacy and security considerations are vitally important, safeguards have been established to keep your records safe from inappropriate disclosure.

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Premium Conversion

Allowing Federal Employees to Pay their Health Benefits Premiums with Pre-tax Dollars

Federal employees can use pre-tax dollars to pay health insurance premiums to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program under the "Premium Conversion" program. Premium conversion uses Federal tax rules to let employees deduct their share of health insurance premiums from their taxable income, thereby reducing their taxes. This plan is similar to the private sector, which has allowed their employees to deduct health insurance premiums from their taxable incomes for many years.

Premium conversion for Federal Employees enrolled in the FEHB Program went into effect in October 2000.

Fact Sheet

A brief description of the program and its tax implications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to many questions about the Premium Conversion program.

FedFlex Plan

This Plan provides Employees a choice between cash and pre-tax coverage under a Medical Plan, Health Care Flexible Spending Arrangement (HCFSA) and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Arrangement (DCFSA). It qualifies as a "cafeteria plan" under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.


Fact Sheet

Premium Conversion is a "pre-tax" arrangement, meaning that the part of your salary that goes for health insurance premiums will become non-taxable. This means that you save on Federal income tax and FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare taxes). In most cases, you'll also save on State income tax and local income tax.

How much? You save a percentage of your premium. If your annual premium is $1800, and you pay 35% in taxes on that amount of salary, you save 35% of $1800. That's $630, or $24.23 every two weeks.

Do I have to pay a tax later? No. Don't confuse premium conversion with the deferred taxation of Thrift Savings Plan contributions, which are taxed when you receive the money.

How do I sign up? The payroll office will sign you up for Premium Conversion automatically. You don't need to fill out a form. You do have a choice, though, to waive premium conversion despite the savings. It's a personal decision.

Why would I not want the tax savings? It's possible but extremely unlikely. The potential reasons fall under two headings: Flexibility and Social Security.

Flexibility: An employee participating in premium conversion generally has all the same flexibility as a person who chooses not to participate. Because of the tax laws, there are two exceptions. If you waive premium conversion you will have the flexibility, without giving any reason whatsoever, either to drop your health insurance altogether or change from a Self and Family enrollment to Self Only. If you are participating in premium conversion, you will be allowed to drop coverage, or change to Self Only, only if your decision to do so comes at the time of a "qualifying life event," such as when you get married or your spouse gets a job that covers you under your spouse's health insurance. This flexibility is generally of little or no value compared to the tax savings of premium conversion.

Social Security: If you pay Social Security taxes on your salary, then premium conversion may result in somewhat lower Social Security benefits. In rare situations, it may be advantageous to pay full Social Security taxes rather than the lower Social Security taxes you pay under premium conversion. These unusual cases do not involve employees covered by the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the CSRS-Offset plan. If you are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and you pay no Federal income tax, you may wish to investigate further.

In any case, this is a decision only you can make.

Employer Shared Responsibility Reporting Guidance

As part of OPM’s role as administrator of the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, OPM is facilitating compliance among certain agencies with Internal Revenue Code section 6056.

To implement Internal Revenue Code Section 6056, each Cabinet level Department, independent agency, board and commission is responsible for reporting certain required information on its full-time employees to the Internal Revenue Service and reporting necessary information to full-time employees.  Agencies need to work with shared service centers and payroll to collect and report on these requirements for the FEHB Program.

Your agency is required to report information on their employees’ access to health coverage to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) annually. Your agency is also required to furnish this information to each full-time employee. These reporting requirements go into effect for plan year 2015, with information due to the IRS and provided to full-time employees in early 2016.

See Frequently Asked Questions for agencies, payroll providers and FEHB enrollees.

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