Expert's View

Recently we have looked at the importance of getting credit for all your periods of federal employment, attending a pre-retirement seminar, and making sure that you get credit for active duty service in the armed forces. This time we’re going to focus on a benefit most of you are enjoying now but which can be lost when you retire if you don’t plan ahead. I’m talking about the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program.

Most federal employees are enrolled in the FEHB program. It’s not only one of the best benefits the federal government offers to its employees, but if you meet the requirements, you can carry that coverage into retirement.


The 5-year rule
To be eligible to carry your FEHB coverage into retirement, you must be enrolled in the FEHB program for the five consecutive years immediately before you retire. Note: If you were enrolled in the FEHB program, had a break in service, and reenrolled when you returned, those periods would still be considered to be consecutive.

Exceptions to the 5-year rule
There are three exceptions to the 5-year rule. First, if you are covered by your spouse’s FEHB enrollment. Second, if you enrolled in the FEHB program at your first opportunity and retire with fewer than 5 years of coverage. Third, if you accepted an early retirement opportunity and had fewer than 5-years of coverage.

See also, FEHB and Medicare Coverage at

If you don’t meet the requirements
If you don’t meet the requirements to carry your FEHB enrollment into retirement, you’ll be given a 31-day extension of coverage at no cost to yourself. When that ends, you’ll have the option of continuing your coverage for up to 18-months under the temporary continuation of coverage provision of law. TCC allows you to keep your current coverage or change to another provider. However, you’ll have to pay 100 percent of the premiums, plus 2 percent to cover administrative expenses.

Considering the spiraling cost of health care, retiring without FEHB coverage would be very expensive unless you have another source of health benefits coverage.