Fedweek

The annual federal benefits open season—this year November 8 – December 13 — “will take place as scheduled,” OPM has told agencies, although adding that they may have to be “creative regarding how you share information with employees.”

“We recognize that this may be another challenging open season” with large numbers of employees still teleworking full-time or more frequently than before the pandemic, but regardless, agencies are “responsible for ensuring that your employees are aware of the dates of open season, how to make changes, and which changes they can make” for 2022, it says.

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As in a similar message at this time last year, OPM said that one traditional method of outreach, holding open season fairs may not be possible, and that agencies should “consider other ways to provide information to employees such as virtual events, webcasts, or webinars,” it said.

During the annual open season, eligible employees not already enrolled in the FEHB health insurance program may join it—generally, retirees who are not already enrolled may not join the program—and both employees and retirees who are currently enrolled may change plans, levels of coverage within plans that offer more than one, or switch among self-only, self plus one or self and family coverage. Similar changes are allowed in the FEDVIP dental-vision insurance program, except that in that program, retirees may newly enroll.

The open season also applies to the flexible spending account program, in which employees—but not retirees—can elect health care and/or dependent care accounts. In the FSA program a new election is needed each open season; in FEHB or FEDVIP, enrollment continues unless the enrollee makes a change.

OPM’s message also noted that a law enacted early this year allows enrollees to carry into 2022 an unlimited amount of unspent FSA health care account money, rather than the usual $550 limit annual carryover, so long as they have an account next year.

Premiums for FEHB and FEDVIP in the next year typically are announced about a month in advance of open season. That announcement also covers general coverage changes in the FEHB, with details in individual plan materials; coverage terms typically change little if at all in FEDVIP year to year.

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