The annual increases in Federal Employees Health Benefits program premiums have many employees late in their careers thinking about dropping FEHB for other insurance. In some cases, they would be eligible for health coverage through a spouse’s employment, for example.

However, think hard before dropping FEHB coverage. In order to be eligible to continue health benefits coverage in retirement you must be entitled to retire on an immediate annuity under a retirement system for civilian employees, and you must have been continuously enrolled (or covered as a family member) in any FEHB plan(s) for the five years of service immediately before the date your annuity starts, or for the full period(s) of service since your first opportunity to enroll (if less than five years). Waivers of the five-year requirement are allowed only in rare cases.

When you elect not to enroll or cancel your enrollment, you certify by your signature on the Health Benefits Election form (SF 2809) that you understand the effect this has on your eligibility to carry coverage into retirement.

And if you cancel your FEHB enrollment as an annuitant, you likely will never be able to reenroll (unless you had canceled or suspended it to enroll in a Medicare managed care plan or the military TRICARE or Veterans Administration CHAMPVA programs).

Also, remember that your spouse’s health insurance coverage might end for a variety of reasons—especially if that coverage is being provided through a private sector employer. Annuitants cannot re-enroll in the FEHB program except under very limited circumstances, such as to reenroll after leaving a Medicare-sponsored health plan, TRICARE or CHAMPVA.

Further, neither you nor your family members would be eligible for continued coverage nor would you be able to convert your coverage to a private non-group policy. Do not drop out of the FEHB program unless you are sure of being able to re-enroll.