Changes in Health, Dental and Vision Insurance for Federal Employees

Changes are occurring in the federal employee health insurance program, including changes to the federal dental and vision insurance program. Here are a couple that will impact a number of readers.

Despite the recession and loss of millions of jobs in the United States in our recent memory, health care reform has probably been the dominant news story in the past year.

We don’t know yet how health insurance premiums will change in 2011 under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB). Chances are, based on articles noting that the nation’s health care costs are going up instead of down as we add new requirements and restrictions as a result of health care legislation, we will find ourselves paying more for health insurance in 2011. As one article has noted, some are expecting average health insurance rate increases of about 10% for 2011. Those of us under the FEHB do not yet know how much we will be paying for health insurance next year—but chances are the premiums we pay will be headed up again.

New Open Season Dates Proposed

One proposed change we do know about: The window for changing your current health plan is likely to be different in 2010.

According to a proposal from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Open Season dates would be November 1st through November 30th of each year. In a Federal Register announcement, OPM says that “This will simplify the annual announcement of the time period for Open Season and allow agencies and employees to better plan for the enrollment opportunity since they will know well in advance when it will occur each year.”

Currently, open season runs from the Monday of the second full workweek in November through the Monday of the second full workweek in December.

OPM is accepting comments on the proposal until June 18th. The new open season dates are likely to become finalized late this summer.

More Flexibility Under FEHB Insurance Plans

Current regulations limit an FEHB plan to offer no more than two options and a high deductible health plan. OPM wants to allow plans to offer two options and a high deductible health plan or to offer three options, without the requirement that one of the options be a high deductible health plan.

Changes to Dental and Vision Plans

OPM is also implementing a change to the federal dental and vision insurance program. The agency is lifting the deadline for federal employees to remove family members from dental or vision coverage after a major life event. The chance is announced in another Federal Register notice,

Major life events include a death, divorce, marriage or the 22nd birthday of a child. Under the current system, a federal employee can only remove spouses or children 31 days before one of these “qualifying life events” only when you request it during the period beginning 31 days before the event or up to 60 days after the event. And, if you miss that deadline,  you will have to pay the insurance premium for the ineligible family member until the next year’s coverage begins.

Starting on May 20th, you will be able to remove the ineligible family member from your policy at any time of the year, beginning 31 days before the life event. And, to make the change even more to your liking, you will be reimbursed for premiums you paid for that relative after the relative became ineligible.

You can expect more changes in our insurance programs in coming months. Many readers have been asking how these changes will impact federal employees. We will strive to keep our readers informed as the changes occur. We do not want to speculate on what the actual changes will be until we know the details as interpreted and applied by the Office of Personnel Management.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47