FEHB enrollees on average will pay 6.2 percent more in premiums in 2017, OPM has announced, although as always there will be much variation among plans, some of which will reduce premiums slightly. The open season for changing plans, plan options or levels of coverage–for those plans that have more than one–will be November 14-December 12. Average increases biweekly for non-postal employees will come to $5.27 for self-only, $10.32 for self plus one and $12.97 for self and family. In Blue Cross standard, the largest plan, those increases will be $5.81, $9.46 and $15.99, respectively. Retirees who continue their FEHB coverage, as most do, pay on a monthly basis rather than biweekly but the total annual enrollee cost is the same as for active employees. However, retirees may not use the “premium conversion” tax break under which active employees pay premiums on a pretax basis, effectively making the cost more affordable. The government contribution toward premiums is remaining 70 percent on average–under union contracts, the Postal Service pays a greater share for its employees, although not for its retirees–but because of the way that share is calculated, premiums are increasing more for enrollees than for the government: the government’s share is rising by 3.7 percent on average, out of a total increase across the program of 4.4 percent, counting both shares. Meanwhile, average premium rates in the FEDVIP program are increasing by 1.9 percent for dental plans and 6.3 percent for vision plans; similar changes are allowed during the open season in that program, except that unlike FEHB, FEDVIP allows new enrollments by retirees not already in the program. There is no government share for FEDVIP so enrollees bear the full brunt of cost increases there. The open season also is the annual opportunity for active employees to designate pretax money into flexible spending accounts for dependent care, health care or both for the next year.
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