FEDweek

Get Ready for the Annual Open Season

Saddle up! We’re burning daylight! Get the lead out! There’s not a moment to lose! (And countless other attention-getting clichés.) So, what’s the rush? Well, OPM will soon announce insurance rates for 2015 and after that Open Season will be just around the corner. This year it will run November 9-December 14.

It’s an important time of year, because it’s your annual opportunity to either change or elect coverage that you can rarely do at any other time of the year.

Just to refresh your mind, there are two programs affected by the open season that are open to all employees and retirees:

* Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), and

* Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance (FEDVIP)

And there’s one that’s only open to employees:

* Federal Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS)

This week I’ll provide you with an overview of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Next week I’ll do the same for FEDVIP and FSAFEDS.

FEHB

Here’s the short story. 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. Whether you are a new enrollee or one changing plans, there aren’t any waiting periods or pre-existing condition limitations.

Reader alert. Carrying your FEHB coverage into retirement isn’t automatic. Generally speaking, you must retire on an immediate annuity and have been continuously enrolled in the FEHB program (or covered as a family member) for the five years immediately before you retire or from your first opportunity to enroll. Note: Enrollment in either TRICARE or CHAMPVA can count toward those five years, but only if you are enrolled in the FEHB program when you retire.

P.S. There’s a special wrinkle if you are a FERS employee. If you retire under the MRA+10 provision and postpone the receipt of your annuity to reduce or eliminate the age penalty, you can reenroll in the FEHB program when your annuity begins.

While the premiums for most federal retirees are the same as those they paid while employed, that isn’t true if you are a Postal Service retiree. As a result of labor negotiations, the premiums for Postal Service employees are lower than those paid by other employees and retirees. However, when they retire, that subsidy ends and they pay the same premiums as everyone else.

Open Season Elections

If you are an employee, you can use the Health Benefits Election form (SF 2809), available from your personnel office or at http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf2809.pdf. If you are a retiree, you can go to Open Season Online at https://retireefehb.opm.gov.