Fedweek

Next Monday (December 10) is the last day of the current open season for electing or changing coverage in the FEHB and FEDVIP programs for next year.

If current enrollees make no changes they will retain the same coverage next year, subject to new premium rates and coverage terms. In practice, only single-digit percentages change plans, levels of coverage within plans that have more than one or their type of enrollment.

Overall, coverage terms in both programs will be largely stable in 2019 as compared with 2018, but while the enrollee share of FEHB premiums on average is increasing by only 1.5 percent, within that average there are wide variations. Also, there are some coverage differences that could be important to an individual, and as health care needs change another plan might be a better choice.

Before the deadline, experts advise that enrollees should, at the minimum: make sure that their plan is remaining available (there are some dropouts); review their plan’s benefits package (plan brochures contain a page highlighting changes from the prior year); understand what is happening with premiums and out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and copays; check if their preferred physicians and other care providers remain available in networks under the plan; and look into the costs and terms of other plans available to them at least enough to see whether they merit a closer look.

While FEHB and FEDVIP coverage continue unchanged unless the enrollee makes a change during the open season, a new enrollment is required each year for those who want a health care flexible spending account, a dependent care account, or both in the following year.

The dependent care maximum remains $5,000 while the health care maximum is rising to $2,700 (a figure set by the IRS after materials were prepared reflecting the old $2,650 figure). Also, you must have a health care account in the following year to take advantage of the $500 allowable carry-over in that type of account.