Questions and Answers on Federal Employee Health Benefits

Federal employees can remain in the FEHB and the plans in the federal employee program meet the “minimum essential coverage” required. The FEHB also now covers Indian tribes.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a question-and-answer sheet on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to answer common questions about the federal insurance program for federal employees.

Perhaps as a result of publicity of proposed legislation to remove federal employees from the current program and to use the new health insurance exchanges and the recent publicity on OPM giving special dispensation to continue to pay for most of the cost of health insurance for Members of Congress and their staffs, the first question on the new sheet is:

” I am enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. Can I keep my coverage? ”

To get right to the point, the answer from OPM is: “Yes, you can continue your FEHB coverage as an eligible Federal employee, retiree, or dependent.”

In addition, the programs available under the federal employees’ health care program does qualify as the “minimum essential coverage” required by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In particular, FEHB plans have never been permitted to exclude enrollees due to their existing medical conditions.

For federal employees who are not enrolled in the program and are eligible to do so,  you can enroll during the Federal Benefits Open Season which is conducted in the Fall.  Also, if you have a “Qualified Life Event”, such as birth of a child, you can enroll in the program. If you are a new employee, you are not automatically enrolled in any particular health plan. By enrolling in the FEHB, you will receive an employer contribution toward the cost of your premium.

So, in short, federal employees and retirees will not see any changes in the current health insurance system for current employees or retirees. That could, of course, change in the future depending on what bills may make it into law but that is unlikely in the near future. Changes have been made to the FEHB plans in recent years, such as allowing children to remain on your plan until they are 26, to bring the FEHB into compliance with the new health care law.

In addition, eligible Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations can now purchase Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) and Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage, rights and benefits for their employees.

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