OPM has dropped rules it proposed last year that would have required employees who enter unpaid status in certain situations to continue paying FEHB premiums on an ongoing basis.
Currently, employees on leave without pay or other unpaid status generally may choose to continue paying or incur a debt to be repaid when returning to pay status. When employees choose the latter, the agency must pay the insurer the employee’s share–along with the regular government share–which can result in substantial unbudgeted costs to the agency, OPM said in initially proposing the rules.
Under the rules, agencies could have required employees in unpaid status–or whose biweekly pay is too low for other reasons to pay their premiums–to remain current on their share, with exceptions for those who go on family-medical leave, to perform active military duty, because of work-related injury or illness, or because of a furlough due to a lapse in agency funding.
However, OPM in dropping the proposal cited concerns that the rule “would place an undue financial burden on federal employees on LWOP or other nonpay status and would make it difficult for these employees to maintain health insurance.”
OPM added that it’s uncertain how much of such debt goes unpaid, although information from one agency indicated that it is only a small percentage of what is repaid. Debt collection procedures are in place to recover any shortages, it noted.