Expert's View

A word to the wise. Carrying your FEHB coverage into retirement isn’t automatic. Image: janews/Shutterstock.com

Reg Jones

This year’s Federal Employee Health Benefits Open Season will run from November 14 to December 12, 2022. If you are already enrolled in an FEHB plan, you can either continue that coverage or you can select another plan and, in some cases, a different level of benefits. You can also increase or decrease your coverage options, for example, from Self and Family to Self Plus One or Self Only. If you are an employee, your coverage begins of the first day of the first pay period beginning after January 1, 2023—which in most cases is that same day. If you are a retiree, your coverage begins on January 1, 2023.

If you aren’t already enrolled in an FEHB plan, you can do that during the Open Season enrollment period. Whether you are a new enrollee or one who is changing plans, there aren’t any waiting periods for coverage nor are there any pre-existing condition limitations.

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If you are an employee who wants to change plans or options (or enroll for the first time), use the Health Benefits Election form (SF 2809), available from your personnel office or online at 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/Annuitant/Home/Default. You can also call Open Season Express at 1-800-332-9798 and follow the voice prompts that tell you how to proceed.

Now, more than in any Open Season in recent memory, you’ll need to not only check to see if the FEHB plan you are either enrolled in (or hoping to enroll in) is still being offered and what it will cost you. As I wrote in an earlier article, there’s been some turbulence in the system, with some carriers dropping out, revising their coverage or changing their areas of service. Worse still, premium costs have soared for some plans.

A word to the wise. Carrying your FEHB coverage into retirement isn’t automatic. By law you must have been enrolled in the FEHB program for the 5 consecutive years before you retire or from your first opportunity to enroll if it’s less than 5 years. While enrollment in either Tricare or CHAMPVA can count toward the enrollment requirement, it can only do that if you are actually enrolled in the FEHB program when you retire.

To help you make an Open Season decision, review the FEHB plan brochures. They’ll explain what services and supplies are covered and the level of coverage.

If you are an employee, you can get more information about FEHB plans, premiums, plan comparisons, etc., at https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/open-season/active-federal-employees.

If you are a retiree, go to https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/open-season/federal-retirees-other-annuitants.

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