OPM has sent the first of a series of annual guidance to agencies on the yearly benefits open season, which this year will run November 13-December 11.

During open season, employees may enroll in the FEHB if not already enrolled, and those already enrolled, including retirees, may change plans or change types of coverage–for example, between self-only and family coverage–without restriction. Both employees and retirees further may newly enroll or change existing enrollments in the FEDVIP vision-dental insurance program. Also, active employees may enroll in the flexible spending account program, choosing either health care accounts, dependent care accounts, or both.

Rates and coverage terms for the FEHB typically are released in September. Relatively few changes are expected, under terms of the “call letter” OPM sent to carriers early in the year that kicked off the annual process of negotiations. Nor are substantial changes expected in FEDVIP.

Maximums for dependent care accounts will remain $5,000 for dependent care accounts and $2,600 for health care accounts, OPM told agencies, while reminding them that a new enrollment is required each year for FSAs. Unlike FEHB and FEDVIP elections, FSA elections don’t carry over from one year to another automatically. Also, it reminded them to stress to employees that the $500 allowable carryover from year-to-year in health care accounts applies only if the employee has such an account in the following year.

OPM also underscored a policy issued last year governing what happens if a plan drops out of FEHB or eliminates an option and an enrolled employee makes no new election. In that case, agencies are to automatically enroll them in the lowest cost nationwide plan available if the plan has dropped out, or in the lowest cost remaining plan option provided by the same carrier that is not a high deductible health plan, if only their option is being dropped. Similar policies have applied for many years to retirees.