Reg Jones Expert's View

During this health benefits Open Season (November 12 – December 10) if you are already enrolled in an FEHB plan, you can continue that coverage or select another plan. You can also increase or decrease your coverage options; for example, from self and family to self plus one or to self-only.

If you are an employee, your coverage begins of the first day of the first pay period beginning after January 1. If you are a retiree, your coverage begins on January 1.

If you aren’t already enrolled in an FEHB plan, you can do that during the Open Season enrollment period. Whether you are a new enrollee or one who is changing plans, there aren’t any waiting periods for coverage nor are there any pre-existing condition limitations.

If you are an employee who wants to change plans or enroll for the first time, use the Health Benefits Election form (SF 2809), available from your personnel office or online at www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf2809.pdf. If you are a retiree, you can go to Open Season Online at https://retireefehb.opm.gov/Annuitant/Home/Default. You can also call Open Season Express at 1-800-332-9798 and listen to and follow the voice prompts that tell you how to proceed.

Although the FEHB premiums for most federal retirees are the same as those they paid while employed, that’s not the case for Postal Service retirees. As a result of labor negotiations, Postal Service employees pay less for their coverage. When they retire, the subsidy ends and they will pay the same premiums as all other employees and retirees. In other words, their premium costs will go up, sometimes substantially.

A word to the wise. Carrying your FEHB coverage into retirement isn’t automatic. By law you must have been enrolled in the FEHB program for the 5 consecutive years before you retire or from your first opportunity to enroll, if it’s less than 5 years. While enrollment in either Tricare or CHAMPVA can count toward the enrollment requirement, it can only do so if you are actually enrolled in the FEHB program when you retire.

To help you make an Open Season decision, review the FEHB plan brochures. They’ll explain what services and supplies are covered and the level of coverage. To access them, go to www.opm.gov/insure/health.

P.S. Don’t be concerned about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the FEHB program. According to OPM, “The FEHB Program qualifies as minimum essential coverage (MEC) and meets the Patient Protection and Affordable care Act’s requirement. For more information, visit www.irs.gov/uac/Questions-and-Answers-on-the-Individual-Shared-Responsibility-Provision.”

Webinar: FEHB And FEGLI Open Season: How to Make the Right Choices