Federal Employee Open Season Enrollment: Changes that may affect you

| November 5, 2013

Benefits Open Season is once again upon us, and there are some changes this year that you’ll want to consider before making your enrollment selections.

Open Season runs from November 11 through December 9.  This is an extremely important time because you cannot enroll, change your enrollment, or cancel your coverage in these programs outside of Open Season unless you experience a Qualifying Life Event, such as marriage, divorce, birth or the adoption of a child. If you do not take action during Open Season, you will continue to be covered by your present health insurance plan.  However, if your current carrier is no longer providing coverage, and you do not take advantage of Open Season, you will not be covered in the new plan year.

Benefit and Rate Changes
Plan benefits and rates can change, so it is very important for you to review your current coverage, the updated plans and determine which plan is best for you.  According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the average Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program premium rate in 2014 will increase by 3.7 percent.  Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) premiums, on average, will go up 1.3 percent next year.  There are also three new dental plans and one new vision plan in FEDVIP, for a total of 10 dental and four vision plans.

Same-Sex Spouses
Following the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, OPM announced that a legally married same-sex spouse of a federal employee is now eligible for FEHB coverage under Self and Family enrollment.  As long as a same-sex couple was married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, the employee’s state of residence does not matter.  The same rules apply for legally married same-sex spouses with FEDVIP.  An employee enrolled in the Federal Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDs) may request reimbursement for eligible expenses incurred by a legally married same-sex spouse.

Affordable Care Act
The FEHB Program does qualify as minimum essential coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  So when enrolling during Open Season, there is nothing you have to do to comply with ACA.

Helpful Tools
OPM’s Compare Plans feature lets you compare FEHB plans by ZIP Code, Name or Plan Code.  You can get side-by-side comparisons of up to four plans at once.  The comparisons include overall plan satisfaction percentages of participants, rates per pay period and deductible/co-pay rates.
The FSAFEDS Savings Calculator will help you estimate your Flexible Spending Account contributions and potential annual tax savings.

Before making your Open Season selections, make a list of items that might affect your choices.  For example, what are your expected health care needs for the year?  New baby? Surgery? Orthodontia?  Do you prefer a lower deductible with higher premiums or vice-versa?  How will increased premiums affect your budget?

This article was re-printed from a First Command publication.

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