The Federal Employee Benefits Survey conducted last year showed that enrollment patterns vary widely in the optional benefits offered to federal employees, as do the reasons for not enrolling in them.
Apart from the FERS and CSRS retirement systems in which enrollment is automatic and the TSP program in which it is automatic for those under FERS—who make up the vast majority of the workforce (all but 4 percent) — enrollment ranged from 81 percent in the FEHB health insurance program to 6 percent in the dependent care flexible spending account program.
Of those benefits, the FEHB is the most closely watched, since lack of enrollment commonly is cited by federal employee unions who argue that premiums are too expensive for many employees, leaving them without health care, and that the government should be doing more to negotiate lower premiums from carriers.
However, the survey found that of those not enrolled, 90 percent are obtaining health care through some other program, most commonly through a spouse’s employment and most commonly through the military TRICARE program.
“Less than one percent of respondents said that they are not enrolled in FEHB and do not have health insurance because they do not think there is a need,” OPM said.
Of those not enrolled in a dependent care FSA, the most common reason was that they have no one eligible to covered by the program, which covers day care and similar costs for children under 13 and dependent parents. In contrast, in the next least-used program, the FLTCIP long-term care insurance program with just 9 percent enrollment, the most common reason was lack of information and awareness of the program.
For the 70 percent not enrolled in the health care flexible spending account program, the most common reason was concern about the program’s “use or lose” feature; for the 43 percent not enrolled in the FEDVIP vision program it was a view that the program does not provide good value; for the 29 percent not enrolled in the FEVIP dental program and the 20 percent not enrolled in the FEGLI life insurance program it was that the individual had coverage elsewhere.