Expert's View

The annual open season begins on November 8 and ends on December 13 in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, which covers 8.2 million people, making it the largest employer-sponsored health program in the country.

That will give federal employees, annuitants, and other eligible individuals the opportunity to review their plan options, make changes, and enroll for the upcoming benefit year. That year begins on January 1, 2022.

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“The average total premiums for current non-Postal employees and annuitants enrolled in plans under the FEHB Program will increase 2.4 percent for plan year 2022, the second lowest premium increase in the last 24 years,” OPM said in announcing plans and premiums in late September.

That figure, while impressive, needs a bit of parsing. The 2.4 percent is the total increase but because of how the premium sharing formula operates—don’t get me started—the enrollee share increased on average 3.8 percent while the government share increased 1.9 percent. And remember, those are averages; premiums in some plans are up by much more, others are basically level and a few are decreasing a bit.

But as the pandemic continues through its second year, there’s no argument with this statement from Kiran Ahuja, OPM’s director: “Quality health insurance has never been more important.”

To quote OPM, “ In the midst of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, OPM and the federal benefits carriers have worked closely to negotiate benefits and rates for the 2022 plan year. OPM continues to focus on offering quality health, dental, and vision benefits that are affordable to the entire federal family.

In its press release, OPM went on to say that it “worked with FEHB carriers to provide smart, timely solutions to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccines, telehealth, and mental health benefits to federal enrollees. To date, over 85% of those enrolled in the FEHB Program have access to incentives of $25 up to $100 for receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. OPM also maximized additional flexibilities permitted by the CARES Act.”

OPM also points out that federal employees may use Open Season to elect to make pre-tax contributions to health care and/or dependent care flexible spending accounts under the federal flexible spending account program (FSAFEDS).”

Updated plan information for 2022 will be available online at OPM’s website (www.opm.gov) on November 8.

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