Reg Jones Expert's View

Reg Jones

Last week I focused on the Federal Employees Health Benefits program and the options available to you during this year’s open season (November 11 – December 9). Now I want to point out two other important programs and their options during open season.

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program FEDVIP
FEDVIP provides vision and dental benefits for employees, retirees and certain family members. Unlike the FEHB program, there isn’t any government subsidy. You as the enrollee pay the full premiums for that coverage.

FEDVIP is actually two separate programs: you can have a vision care plan, a dental care plan or both. If you have both, you do not need to use the same provider for each nor do you need to have the same type of enrollment (self only vs. self plus one, for example) in both. Some FEHB carriers also participate in FEDVIP, but you don’t need to use the same carrier under both programs.

As with FEHB, if you are currently enrolled in a vision or dental plan or both, you can use the open season to switch among plans or among type of enrollment. Also as with FEHB, if you make no changes, your coverage will continue in the new year, subject to new premium and coverage terms.

If you aren’t enrolled in FEDVIP, you can do that during the upcoming open season. This applies to both active employees and retirees; there isn’t a “5-year rule” for FEDVIP eligibility in retirement (see last week’s column for a description of that as it applies in FEHB):

Open Season Options for FEHB

If you are already enrolled in the program when you retire on an immediate annuity, your coverage will continue, but if you are not enrolled at retirement you still are free to enroll after retirement during any open season.

Plan information is at www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/dental-vision/plan-information/ and enrollment information is at www.benefeds.com, or call 1-877-888-3337 (TTY 1-877-889-5680).

Flexible Spending Accounts for Federal Employees
FSAs are employer-established benefit plans where your take-home pay is reduced in exchange for a tax advantage. This applies only to active employees, not to retirees.

A new FSA enrollment is required each year; prior enrollment does not carry over from year to year as it does in FEHB and FEDVIP.

A dependent care FSA, through which employees may use pre-tax allotments to pay for eligible dependent care expenses of between $100 and $5,000 annually ($2,500 maximum if the employee is married and filing a separate income tax return). This includes reimbursement of day care expenses for dependent children under age 13 and for dependent adults, including parents and siblings, but not long-term care type expenses.

See also, health savings account – FEHB

A health care FSA allows an employee to use pre-tax allotments to pay for certain health care expenses that are not reimbursed by any other source and not claimed on the participant’s income tax return. The annual minimum an employee may set aside is $100 and the maximum is $2,700; if both members of a married couple are separately eligible for an FSA through their employment, each may have an account up to the maximum. That $2,700 figure might rise slightly for 2020 due to an inflation adjustment that is yet to be announced.

Note: A “limited expense” health care FSA—limited to certain eligible dental and vision expenses—is available to FSA enrollees who also are enrolled in a high deductible health savings account plan in the FEHB. In general, health care FSAs are not available to those enrolled in such FEHB plans, but IRS rules permit individuals to have a health savings account and a “limited” FSA.

Enrollment and information about FSAs is www.fsafeds.com or call 1-877-372-3337, TTY 1-866-353-8058.

Read more on federal employee health savings accounts – FSAs at ask.FEDweek.com