As I pointed out last week, the 2012 benefits open season runs from Monday November 12 through Monday December 10. It’s you annual opportunity to review your health, dental and vision, and (if you are an employee) tax saving needs.

This week I want to talk about your options for the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance (FEDVIP), and Federal Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS) programs. And I want to spell out the rules that determine if you can carry that coverage into retirement.

FEHB

If you are already enrolled in an FEHB plan, you can continue that coverage, select another plan, or change from the self only option to self and family or vice versa. If you aren’t already enrolled in a plan, you can do that. There aren’t any waiting periods or pre-existing condition limitations, whether you are a new enrollee or one changing plans.

Carrying your FEHB coverage into retirement isn’t automatic. By law, you must have been enrolled in or covered by the FEHB for the five consecutive years before you retire on an immediate annuity. While enrollment in either Tricare or CHAMPVA can count toward those five years, it can only do so if you are enrolled in the FEHB program when you retire.

Note: Although the premiums for most federal retirees are the same as those they paid while they were employed, that’s not true for Postal Service retirees. As a result of labor negotiations, Postal Service employees pay less. However, when they retire, they pay the same premiums as all other employees and retirees.

FEDVIP

If you are enrolled in FEDVIP, you can continue that coverage. If you aren’t enrolled, you can do so. In either case, you’ll need to find out who the dental and vision providers are, since they may be different from your FEHB providers. This is important because FEDVIP always pays benefits secondary to your FEHB coverage.

There isn’t any five-year rule for FEDVIP. If you are already enrolled in the program, your coverage will continue if you retire on an immediate annuity.

P.S. If you decide to cancel your FEDVIP coverage, you can only do that during Open Season or if you are deployed on active duty.

FSAFEDS

If you wish to participate in FSAFEDS next year you must enroll for it even if you currently are enrolled—enrollments don’t continue one year to the next as they do under FEHB. You can choose a dependent care account and/or a health care account—for FEHB enrollees in certain plans offering similar tax breaks, only a “limited expense” FSA is available. you can do so. As an enrollee in FSAFEDS, you’ll be able enjoy the lower taxable income benefits and pay for your FEHB and FEDVIP co-pays and deductibles.

Note: You cannot carry FSAFEDS coverage into retirement nor can you enroll in it if you are retired.