The annual federal benefits open season will run November 14-December 12 this year, OPM has told agencies, reminding them that they “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.”
OPM’s message in a benefits administration letter is the annual first step in a process that will be followed by an announcement—typically in late September or early October—of general plan coverage terms and premium rates for the upcoming year, plus notice of any additions or dropouts from the FEHB health insurance program. Specific terms of each plan typically then are released a few weeks before the open season begins, and elections are effective with the new year.
During the annual open season, eligible employees not already enrolled in the FEHB 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 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.
As a practical matter, only low single-digit percentages of enrollees change plans each year. If an FEHB plan ends participation—less common in the immediate past years than at one time—enrollees must change plans or accept being put in the lowest-cost national plan by default. Also, at times regional health plans end their coverage in certain areas.
OPM and USPS recently issued a reminder that a parallel plan for only postal employees and retirees, ordered by a Postal Service reform law enacted in the spring, will not take effect until 2025 and that FEHB coverage for them continues on the same terms until them.