OPM has said that the annual federal benefits open season—this year November 9-December 14—”will take place as scheduled. The effective dates of open season enrollment actions will not be delayed due to COVID-19.”
In an annual notice to agencies telling them to prepare for open season, OPM told agencies that they are “responsible for ensuring that your employees are aware of the dates of open season, how to make changes, and which changes they can make” for the 2021 plan year.
“We recognize that this may be a uniquely challenging open season, and appreciate your efforts to ensure you are prepared to administer open season, including timely processing of enrollments and enrollment changes,” OPM said.
During the annual open season, eligible employees may newly enroll in the FEHB program—generally, retirees who are not already enrolled may not join the program—and both employees and retirees who are currently enrolled may change plans, levels of coverage within plans that offer more than one, or switch among self-only, self plus one or self and family coverage.
Similar changes are allowed in the FEDVIP dental-vision insurance program, except that in that program, retirees may newly enroll. The open season also applies to the flexible spending account program, in which employees—but not retirees—can elect health care and/or dependent care accounts.
“We strongly encourage you to be creative regarding how you share information with employees. This may include information on your email signature line, lunch and learn sessions, and social media,” it said in a notice that includes materials for agencies to provide to employees.
For example, it noted that agencies may not be able to hold open season fairs, which it said normally are a “valuable resource” for employees. “Consider other ways to provide information to employees such as virtual events, webcasts, or webinars. We have also encouraged health plans to consider additional methods to provide information about open season to their enrollees and others,” OPM said.
OPM previously had announced the addition of several new plans for 2021 in the FEDVIP program. The general outline of the upcoming plan year in that program and in the FEHB—including premium rates and coverage changes—typically is announced in late September, with fuller details released just ahead of the open season.