Fedweek

The federal benefits open season begins Monday (November 11) and runs through December 9, the annual opportunity to make changes in FEHB health insurance and FEDVIP vision-dental insurance coverage.

As earlier announced, the enrollee share of FEHB premiums in the former program will rise 5.6 percent on average while premiums in the latter will rise on average by 5.6 percent for dental plans and by 1.5 percent for vision plans. However, there is substantial variation among plans and premiums in some are essentially flat or decreasing somewhat.

In addition to changing plans, the open season allows for changes in levels of coverage within a plan—for those with more than one—and changes in types of coverage, among self-only, self plus one and self plus family. Further, active employees can newly enroll in either program; retirees can newly enroll in FEDVIP, although not in FEHB unless they are working as reemployed annuitants.

Several FEHB plans have expanded their coverage areas and there is a new nationwide “indemnity benefit plan” offered by Government Employees Health Association. Two plans are dropping out: MVP HealthCare in New York and Highmark Choice in Pennsylvania. Enrollees must choose a new plan or else they will be switched by default to that GEHA plan because it will be the lowest-cost national offering. In addition, Kaiser HMOs in Colorado and Washington are restricting coverage areas and the SelectHealth Plan in Utah is eliminating its high option. FEDVIP plans are remaining unchanged.

In both programs an existing enrollment will continue next year unless changed, subject to the new premium rates and any changes in benefits. However, those who wish to have a dependent care and/or health care flexible spending account in 2020 must make a new election during the open season. Maximums currently are $5,000 for dependent care accounts and $2,700 for health care accounts; the latter figure may rise slightly for 2020 with an inflation adjustment that is yet to be announced.

The open season does not apply to the other two federal insurance programs, the FEGLI life insurance program and the FLTCIP long-term care insurance program. The former conducts rare open seasons, although new enrollments or coverage changes are allowed in certain circumstances at other times. The FLTCIP is open to new applications for enrollments or coverage changes at any time, subject to underwriting.