Open Season Changes and the Five Year Rule

If you plan to carry your FEHB into retirement, be careful not to get tripped up by the five year rule.

We all are, or should be, aware that, in order to carry our Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) into retirement, we must have been enrolled for the five years immediately preceding retirement.

There are a couple of exceptions to this general rule that bear mentioning:

  1. If you are covered as a family member on your federally employed spouse’s FEHB policy, you are treated as if you have been enrolled in your own right.
  2. Being covered under TRICARE counts towards the five years as long as you are on FEHB the day that you retire.

If you have not been covered under FEHB for most of your career, but want to be able to carry it into retirement, you might be planning on enrolling in FEHB five years before the year in which you plan to retire.  The coverage must be for a full five years, so you need to be aware of when your FEHB enrollment becomes effective.  Many people choose to retire on December 31st, but FEHB coverage is rarely effective on that date.

Here’s an example:

Steve signs up for FEHB during this year’s open season on November 27, 2017.  However, his coverage is effective on the first day of the first full pay period of 2018 (January 7th for most of us).  Steve retires on December 31, 2022.  It has been more than five years since Steve submitted his Form 2809, but it has been less than five years since his coverage has been in effect.  Steve has had his FEHB coverage for one week less than the required five years and is unable to carry his FEHB into retirement.

Don’t get caught in a situation like Steve’s; make sure you have your FEHB for a full five years before the date of your 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.