FEDweek

FEHB Premium Hike 6.1 Percent, Open Season Around Corner

The announcement of FEHB and FEDVIP premium rates for the 2018 plan year ends the annual process of OPM negotiating with the carriers but begins the annual process for federal employees and retirees to consider whether they might want to change plans, levels of coverage or options for the upcoming year.

For 2018, the average enrollee premium in the FEHB is rising 6.1 percent over 2017, following increases of the prior two years of 7.4 and 6.2 percent. However, as always there is substantial variation in that average, with some increases much higher and others—including two of the national plans—decreasing. Out of pocket costs such as deductibles stayed essentially the same. Premiums in FEDVIP meanwhile on average are rising over 2017 rates by 1.3 percent for dental plans and fell by 0.5 percent for vision plans.

Further details of each plan will be announced just ahead of the annual federal benefits open season, which runs November 13-December 11 this year. During that period, FEHB-eligible persons can change plans or change types or levels of coverage for 2018, and active employees can enroll if not already in the program. Retirees generally cannot newly enroll but they can make the other changes.

The open season also allows new enrollments or enrollment changes in the FEDVIP vision-dental insurance program for both active employees and retirees—unlike in the FEHB program, there is no requirement that retirees keep their coverage continuously throughout retirement in order to remain eligible. Also, while the government pays about 70 percent of the total cost of FEHB premiums, FEDVIP premiums are at the enrollee’s sole cost.

In both FEHB and FEDVIP, self-only, self plus one and self and family options are available, but there is no requirement that those enrolled in both programs must have the same option for each. And while some FEHB carriers also offer FEDVIP plans, there is no requirement to have the same carrier for both.

Also in both those programs, if an enrollee makes no changes in the open season, a current enrollment will continue next year, subject to coverage and cost changes.

That is not the case with the flexible spending account program; those who wish to have a dependent care and/or health care account in 2018 must make a new election during the open season. Further, to take advantage of the allowed carryover of up to $500 of unspent health care account money from one year to the next an employee must have an account in the second year. Maximums for dependent care accounts will remain $5,000 for dependent care accounts and $2,600 for health care accounts.