Reg Jones Expert's View

Open season on health benefits will run from November 11 to December 9 this year. 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 by moving among the self only, self plus one and self and family options.

If you are an employee and aren’t already enrolled in an FEHB plan, you also can do that during the open season. Retirees (except rehired annuitants) can’t newly enroll. Note: Carrying your health benefits coverage into retirement isn’t automatic. By law you have to be enrolled in the FEHB program for the 5 consecutive years before you retire or from your first opportunity to enroll. While enrollment in either Tricare or CHAMPVA can count toward the 5-year requirement, it can only do that if you are actually enrolled in the FEHB program when you retire.

Whether you are a new enrollee or one who is making a change, there aren’t any waiting periods for coverage nor are there any pre-existing condition limitations. If you don’t make any change, your coverage will continue as it is, subject to the new premium and coverage terms.

To help you make an Open Season decision, use OPM’s plan comparison tool at https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/healthcare/plan-information/compare-plans

If you are an employee who wants to make a change 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, a website that will be on line in early November at https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/healthcare/plan-information/enroll/. 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.

Note: While FEHB premiums for most federal retirees are the same on an annual basis as those they paid while they were working—only paid monthly rather than biweekly—they are higher for Postal Service retirees than for postal employees. When postal employees retire, the premium subsidy gained through labor negotiations ends and they pay the same premiums as all other employees and retirees.

If you are a retiree, your coverage begins on January 1, 2020. If you are an employee, it begins of the first day of the first pay period beginning after January 1, 2020.

Read more on the FEHB program and more at ask.FEDweek.com