Fedweek

The annual federal benefits open season now started and running through December 13 provides an opportunity to make changes in FEHB health insurance and FEDVIP vision-dental insurance coverage, and to elect flexible spending accounts for the following calendar year.

As earlier announced, the enrollee share of FEHB premiums will rise 3.8 percent on average; however, there is variation among plans and premiums in some are essentially flat or decreasing somewhat. There will be 275 plan choices—down by one after a few dropouts and additions—including 18 nationwide plan choices open to all, four available only to certain groups, and the rest available regionally.

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Even enrollees wishing to stick with their same coverage should look at the offerings, experts advise, since benefits do change somewhat year to year. In addition, “Enrollees should carefully check the 2022 rates of their current plan and any other plan choices they are considering for 2022,” OPM said in a message to agency benefits counselors.

Several smaller plans have dropped out while some HMO plans have restricted their coverage areas; affected enrollees would have to select a new plan or else they will be placed by default in the GEHA “Elevate” plan, the lowest-cost nationwide plan option.

OPM further has called attention to the fact that in nearly 100 plan choices, self plus one will be more expensive than family coverage for 2022. That anomaly is due to the combination of how the premium sharing formula works and the high percentage of older employees and retirees—who are less likely to have children young enough to be covered—in self plus one.

In many cases the difference is minor, but nonetheless OPM told agencies to remind enrollees that those who wish to cover one eligible family member are not obligated to choose self plus one but may elect family coverage instead.

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

In both the FEHB and FEDVIP programs an existing enrollment will continue next year unless changed, subject to the new premium rates and any changes in benefits. In FEDVIP, premiums will be essentially flat with no changes in the plans available. All vision plans are national while some of the dental plans are national and others regional.

Those who wish to have a dependent care and/or health care flexible spending account in 2022 must make a new election during the open season. Maximums are $5,000 (individually or for a couple) for dependent care accounts and $2,750 (individually) for health care accounts.

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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. FEGLI 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 enrollment or changes in existing enrollment at any time, subject to underwriting.

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