Preparing for the 2018 Open Season

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By on October 28, 2018 in Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments

2018 federal benefits open season

The open season for federal employee benefits will be from Monday, November 12, 2018 through Monday, December 10, 2018 this year. This is the time when federal employees need to make their benefits selections for the coming year.

The Office of Personnel Management is continuing to provide basic information to help federal employees plan for this event. The following is some of the latest information from OPM about enrollment in the various benefits programs. If you have questions or need more detailed information about the benefits available to you, be sure to contact your agency’s human resources officers for assistance.

Programs Participating in Open Season

The following Programs participate in the annual Open Season:

Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS)

  • There are 3 accounts from which to choose – a dependent care account, a health care account, and a limited expense health care account.
  • Participating lowers your taxable income.
  • You can pay for your FEDVIP and FEHB copays and deductibles.
  • Not open to retirees.
  • Visit www.FSAFEDS.com or call 1-877- FSAFEDS (372-3337) to enroll. Enrollment in FSAFEDS does not carry over from year to year, so if employees want to participate in FSAFEDS for 2019, they must make a new election.

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)

  • Your coverage will continue into retirement automatically, without a 5-year enrollment requirement, if you retire on an immediate annuity.
  • Participating dental and vision providers may be different from your health plan’s providers.
  • You can cancel your coverage only during Open Season, or deployment to active military duty.
  • FEDVIP always pays benefits secondary to your FEHB insurance.

Enrollment

Visit www.BENEFEDS.com and note that enrolling online involves two steps:

  1. Create a BENEFEDS.com account by providing demographic and employment information. This is a one time action to create the employee’s account. If an employee is already enrolled in FEDVIP, he/she already has a BENEFEDS.com account.
  2. Enroll. Employees may enroll in one dental plan and/or one vision plan. Employees must complete the enrollment section for each plan in which they want to enroll. If they are already enrolled, that enrollment automatically continues and they do not need to enroll again unless they want to make a change.

Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program

  • You must be covered by the Program for the 5 years of service immediately before retiring to continue  FEHB coverage into retirement
  • There are no waiting periods and no pre-existing condition limitations under FEHB, even if you change plans.
  • There are many choices under FEDVIP and FEHB to meet your needs. See OPM’s healthcare page for more information and available plans.
  • You may enroll in FSAFEDS and/or FEDVIP whether or not you are already enrolled in FEHB
  • FEHB enrollment is done through your agency’s electronic enrollment system (e.g., Employee Express, MyPay, EBIS, etc.) or use the Health Benefits Election Form, SF 2809

Programs Not Participating in the Open Season

The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program and the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) do not participate in the annual Federal Benefits Open Season.

Eligible employees and qualified relatives can apply for coverage under FLTCIP at any time using the full underwriting application. Additional information on both FEGLI and FLTCIP is available at www.opm.gov/insure.

Belated Enrollment Actions

FSAFEDS

Agencies do not have the authority to approve FSAFEDS belated enrollments. Employees who are unable to enroll during the entire Open Season for reasons beyond their control may qualify for a belated enrollment. They must submit the Belated Enrollment Form (available at www.FSAFEDS.com) to WageWorks within 30 days after Open Season ends. Instructions are on the form. Belated enrollments are effective the day after FSAFEDS receives the employee’s form.

FEDVIP

Agencies do not have the authority to approve FEDVIP belated enrollments.

BENEFEDS makes these decisions on behalf of the FEDVIP carriers. The time limit for enrolling or changing an enrollment may be extended for up to 3 months after the end of Open Season, only if the employee provides evidence to BENEFEDS that he/she was unable to enroll or change enrollment timely due to circumstances beyond his/her control.

Not knowing about Open Season is not an acceptable reason for a belated enrollment. This includes receiving incorrect information from the agency. The employee must enroll or change enrollment within 30 days after BENEFEDS notifies him/her that the belated enrollment is approved.

For approved belated FEDVIP enrollments or belated changes in enrollments, the effective date will be retroactive to January 1, 2019. BENEFEDS will begin withholding premiums prospectively from the enrollee’s pay and will then bill the enrollee directly for the retroactive premiums on the next billing cycle. If an enrollee does not pay the retroactive premiums timely, his/her enrollment will be cancelled retroactively as if it never existed and he/she will be responsible for repaying any benefits received.

FEHB

Agency benefits officers do not have the authority to extend the Open Season for their employees or a group of their employees, even if an agency did not provide adequate notice or information regarding the Open Season. However, they do have the authority to accept individual late elections if it is determined that an employee was unable to submit the election on time due to circumstances beyond the employee’s control. OPM says it encourages benefits officers to make limited use of this authority, but that they recommend that benefits officers take a liberal view in cases where an employee’s plan is terminating its FEHB participation or reducing its service area.

An accepted belated FEHB Open Season enrollment is effective retroactive to the first day of the first pay period which begins on or after January 1, 2019.

Cancelling FEHB Enrollment

An Open Season cancellation is effective at the end of the day before the first day of the first pay period that begins in the next year.

Note: Cancellation can have serious consequences. In order to continue FEHB coverage after retirement, an employee must have been covered under the FEHB Program continuously for the five years of service immediately before retirement or, if less than five years, for all periods of service during which he/she was eligible for FEHB coverage.

If an employee is canceling his/her FEHB enrollment in order to be covered as a family member by a spouse’s FEHB Open Season enrollment, it is necessary to coordinate the effective date of the cancellation with the effective date of the spouse’s enrollment to prevent a break in coverage. Coverage under a family member’s FEHB enrollment counts towards the “five- year rule” for continuing coverage into retirement.

Additional information on benefits and the upcoming open season is available at www.opm.gov/openseason

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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