OPM is seeking authority from Congress to offer federal employees what it calls “voluntary benefits” such as short-term disability insurance, prepaid legal plans, emergency short-term childcare, and personal accident insurance.
“Under this authority, OPM could contract with insurers or other appropriate vendors to offer one or more specific benefits to federal employees and, if applicable, annuitants. OPM does not have authority to contract or hold funds for these benefits under current law,” says the proposal, in supplemental budget materials.
The full cost would be borne by enrollees, but because OPM would harness the group purchasing power of the federal workforce, the cost could be more affordable than if enrollees seek similar benefits in the retail market on an individual basis, said OPM.
In that way the offerings would operate much like the FEDVIP vision-dental insurance program and the FLTCIP long-term care insurance program, neither of which have a government contribution but which reflect group rates.
OPM said that such benefits would make the government a more attractive employer and are increasingly common in the private sector.
Several agencies outside some standard civil service policies, including financial regulatory agencies that operate under the Federal Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act, already offer such benefits to aid in recruitment and retention, it noted.