The annual federal benefits open season starts Monday (November 12) and runs through December 10, with the enrollee share of premiums in the program of primary interest, the FEHB, increasing on average by 1.5 percent—only about a quarter of the average increase of recent prior years.
However, as always there is substantial variation in that average, with some increases much higher and others decreasing, and OPM as always has urged enrollees—and eligible persons not enrolled—to compare plans not only based on premiums but also based on total costs and coverage features.
Premiums in the FEDVIP vision-dental insurance program meanwhile on average are rising over 2018 rates by 1.2 percent for dental plans and falling by 2.8 percent for vision plans.
The open season is the annual opportunity for federal employees to join the FEHB and/or FEDVIP programs for the upcoming calendar year, or to change plans, or switch without among self-only, self plus one or self and family coverage. Retirees also can join FEDVIP if not already enrolled, but in general they cannot newly enroll in FEHB, unless they are rehired as annuitants. Retirees currently enrolled in either program can make the same other types of enrollment changes as active employees.
Also during open season, employees (but not retirees) can choose to have health care and/or dependent care flexible spending accounts for next year. The maximum is $2,650 for the former and $5,000 for the latter.
While FEHB and FEDVIP enrollments continue from one year to the next if unchanged, a new enrollment is required each year for FSAs. Also, a new enrollment is required to take advantage of the health care FSA’s feature of allowing up to $500 in unspent money to be carried forward into the next year. In the dependent care program, there is a 10-week grace period into the next year to use any money not used in a plan year. Apart from those exceptions, money in those accounts is use or lose.
The open season does not apply to the FEGLI life insurance program or to the FLTCIP long-term care insurance program.