The Federal “Five-Year Requirement” and Your Federal Health and Life Insurance

Open season will soon be upon us. Retirement expert John Grobe says that this is a good time to look at the “five-year requirement” for federal employee health insurance and life insurance and how this requirement may impact your retirement.

With Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) open season approaching in November, it might be helpful to take a look at the “five-year requirement”. While we’re at it, we’ll look at how the five-year requirement applies to your Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI).

Most federal employees are aware that, in order to carry your FEHB into retirement, you have to have been enrolled for the five-year period immediately preceding retirement (with few exceptions). There is generally a great advantage in being able to carry your FEHB into retirement. Uncle continues paying his share for as long as you remain enrolled.

A few things of which you should be aware are:

  • The five years refers to enrollment in the program. You do not have to remain in the same plan for five years.
  • Your spouse does not have to be enrolled for the five years immediately preceding your retirement in order to be covered. You can bring your spouse on your insurance at any time before retirement, or even after retirement.  Be aware that if you die after retirement but before bringing your spouse on your FEHB, your spouse will not be able to continue FEHB, even if you have elected a survivor annuity.
  • If you are enrolled as a family member on the FEHB policy of your spouse, that counts towards the five-year period the same as if you were enrolled on your own.
  • Tricare is viewed as equivalent to FEHB, and time spent on Tricare counts towards the five years.

FEGLI has the same five-year requirement, but there are a few differences between FEGLI and FEHB. 

First, FEGLI open seasons are not regularly scheduled. In fact, the last FEGLI open season was in 2004 and the changes that were made in that open season were not effective until September 4, 2005. That means that if you enrolled in or changed your insurance four years ago, you have to wait another two years to meet the five-year requirement. When does 6 = 5? When FEGLI is involved.

OPM has not announced the next FEGLI open season, but I would expect that there would be one in 2009, with changes effective in 2010. You may cancel or drop your FEGLI at any time. Open seasons are only necessary for enrolling or increasing your level of coverage.

FEGLI options B and C also have options regarding the level of coverage. In option B you may have multiples of 1 to 5 times your salary, and in option C you may have options of 1 to 5 times the amounts of $5,000 for a spouse and $2,500 for a child. If you have options B and C when retiring, you can only carry over the lowest level of multiples you had during the last five years. For example, if you had option B coverage of 2X your salary and changed to 3X your salary in the most recent open season, you would have to wait until after September 4, 2010 to retire in order to carry the 3X coverage into retirement.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.