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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Announces Open Season for Health Benefits, Dental and Vision Insurance, and Flexible Spending Accounts

Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today announced premiums and benefits in the FEHB Program, which covers approximately 8 million federal employees, retirees and their dependents.

Federal employees and retirees can choose from among 269 health-plan options to be offered in the 2009 Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, including 10 nationwide fee-for-service options that are available to all enrollees and 27 High Deductible Health Plans.

Enrollees with self-only coverage will pay, on average, $4.83 more each pay period (about $125 per year) next year. Family coverage will cost an average $11.12 more per pay period. FEHB enrollees pay - on average - 30 percent of the total cost of a plan's premium, while the government pays 70 percent.

This year's Open Season begins November 10 and runs through December 8, 2008, giving employees the opportunity to change or add to their portfolio of health- and family-care insurance products.

In 2009, 10 fee-for-service plans and a number of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) will expand coverage of hearing benefits for adults. This enhancement follows OPM's challenge last year to health carriers - which a number accepted - to improve the coverage of diagnostic tests and hearing aids for children in 2008.

Often cited as a model health-care system, the FEHB Program is not immune to external factors that influence the cost of medical care. In fact, two private studies predict medical costs next year will rise between 9.6 percent and 10.6 percent, with the aging population, the rise of prescription drug costs and patient demand for services fueling much of the increase.

Next year's rise in the average FEHB premium is significantly less than rate hikes some are predicting for large, employer-sponsored private-sector programs.

Premiums, including the government share and the enrollee share, will increase an average 7.0 percent next year. Overall, the average enrollee share of the premium will increase 7.9 percent. Twenty percent of FEHB enrollees would see their share of premiums rise by less than 5.0 percent, based on 2008 enrollment data.

Enrollees in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Option, the most popular FEHB plan choice, would see their share of the premium increase 12.9 percent for self-only coverage and 13.4 percent for self and family coverage.

"I appreciate the tough environment in which the FEHB Program currently operates," said Nancy Kichak, OPM's Associate Director for Strategic Human Resources Policy. "While we worked very hard to contain premium costs -- and we were more successful with some health plans than with others -- federal employees and retirees can take comfort in knowing they are enrolled in a solid program that provides outstanding benefits and customer service."

Enrollees in Coventry Healthcare of Kansas (standard option, self and family plan) will see their premium share drop by 49.5 percent; others will see increases up to 173 percent.

"One hallmark of the FEHB Program is ‘choice', meaning employees and retirees can use the Open Season to shop among plans and, perhaps, move to one that better meets their medical and financial needs," said Kay Ely, OPM's Associate Director for Human Resources Products and Services.

OPM conducts an annual Open Season to give federal employees and retirees the opportunity to select a new health plan; during the Open Season, current federal employees who are not enrolled may elect FEHB coverage. The Open Season also gives employee and retirees the chance to select supplemental dental and/or vision coverage.

The Open Season also gives employees the opportunity to elect coverage under a tax-deferred Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for health care and/or dependent care, or to adjust an existing FSA. Current FSA enrollees must re-enroll for coverage in 2009 during the Open Season. In 2007, nearly 246,000 individuals had a Flexible Spending Account. By law, retirees are not eligible for FSA benefits.

The Open Season also can be used by employees and retirees to enroll in supplemental dental and/or vision insurance coverage. In 2008 - in only its second year of availability - the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) had more than 1 million enrollments.

Each Open Season, OPM publishes the popular Guide to Federal Benefits. This year, it identifies 42 FEHB carriers for their best-practices on health-care cost and quality transparency. OPM also will unveil a new Federal Benefits website (www.opm.gov/insure), which will let enrollees look at their overall health-related coverages and give them a better understanding of the coordination of benefits between, for instance, the FEHB Program and the supplemental dental/vision coverage.

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.


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