Last week I gave you the dates of the 2011 Open Season – November 14 through December 12. I also offered some reasons why you should both care about it and use the opportunity to review your health, dental and vision, and (if you are an employee) tax saving needs.

This time I want to go over two things. First, your Open Season options for the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance (FEDVIP), and Federal Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS) programs. Second, the rules that control your ability to carry that coverage into retirement.

FEHB

If you aren’t already enrolled in a plan, you can do so. If you are already enrolled, you can stay put, change to another plan, or alter your coverage from self only to self and family or vice versa. There aren’t any waiting periods or pre-existing condition limitations even if you change plans.

To carry your coverage into retirement, you must have been enrolled in or covered by the FEHB for the five consecutive years before you retire on an immediate annuity. 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.

While premiums for most federal retirees and the same as those they paid while employed, that’s not true for Postal Service retirees. Because of labor contracts, they pay less when employed. When they retire, they pay the same as all other employees and retirees.

FEDVIP

If you aren’t already enrolled in FEDVIP, you can do so. If you are enrolled, you’ll need to check to see who the dental and vision providers are, since they may differ from your FEHB providers. Note: FEDVIP always pays benefits secondary to your FEHB coverage, to the extent that it includes dental and vision benefits.

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

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.

FSAFEDS

If you are an employee who hasn’t already enrolled in FSAFEDS, you can do so. If you are enrolled, just like new enrollees, you’ll have these accounts from which to choose: a dependent care account, a health care account, and, if you are enrolled in an FEHB plan with a health savings account feature, a limited expense health care account. 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.

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

Next time I’ll let you know how much these programs cost and where you can find more detailed information about the choices available to you.