Fedweek

OPM officials have suggested that many FEHB enrollees who have only one eligible family member could save money in the open season starting November 14, even if they don’t wish to change to a lower-cost plan or to a lower-cost option within a plan, by switching from family coverage to self plus one. They say that of the estimated 1 million FEHB enrollees with just one eligible family member, only half switched from family coverage to self plus one during last year’s open season or during a special period early this year when there was a second chance to make that change. A plan’s self plus one option typically is cheaper than family coverage because fewer people on average are covered—the average family enrollment has three covered persons. However, in some plans self plus one actually costs the enrollee more, which came as a surprise to many when rates for 2016 were announced last fall. For 2017, that will be again be true of about 40 plans, which together have about 5 percent of the roughly four million FEHB enrollments; in some other plans the difference will be minimal, on the order of a few dollars biweekly. The reason, OPM says, is that self plus one enrollees tend to be older—and have no children under the age 26 cutoff who would compel a family enrollment—and older people on average consume more health care. However, self plus one also is an option for a married couple of any age without eligible children, or a single parent with one eligible child.