The 2018 open season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is officially underway as of today. It runs from Monday, November 12, 2018 through Monday, December 10, 2018 this year.
The purpose of open season is to ensure that current and former federal employees have the right health, dental or vision insurance coverage for themselves and their families. It is also the time to consider the money you can save on your out-of-pocket medical and dependent care expenses for the upcoming year.
You cannot enroll, change your enrollment, or cancel your coverage in these benefits programs outside of open season unless you experience a Qualifying Life Event, so it’s important to review the options and make your selections now for the coming year.
2019 FEHB Costs
The average cost increase for the employee’s share of premiums for health insurance plans under the FEHB is rising by 1.5% in 2019. This is the lowest increase in premiums in over 20 years. Some plans will cost more next year and some will cost less of course, but this is the overall average change.
The government’s share of premiums will increase by an average of 1.2% next year. The government pays for about 72% of the total cost of health insurance for current and former federal employees enrolled in the FEHB.
Some people ask why their share of premiums goes up more than the government’s. OPM has explained that while it appears that the employee’s share is rising faster, it actually is not because the government contribution to premiums is based on a lower average as enrollees select lower cost plans. Alan Spielman, OPM Director of Healthcare and Insurance, explained the discrepancy this way:
The government pays 75% of the premiums up until a cap on the maximum government contribution, and that maximum government contribution is determined by this statutory formula that is 72% of the weighted average. It’s through operation of that maximum cap that has this effect, so to the extent that more people are concentrated in less expensive premium plans, it has a lowering effect on the government contribution.
FEHB Plan Information
Federal employees and retirees will need to make selections during open season to choose their insurance plans for the coming year. The Office of Personnel Management has provided an open season website to assist with this process.
One of the key features is the FEHB plan comparison tool. This lets users view all of the plans available in a region along with their descriptions and sort the cost of premiums, annual deductibles or annual out-of- pocket maximums from lowest to highest. OPM’s website also includes a full list of all FEHB plans, both postal and non-postal, along with their premiums.
The website also has information for current federal employees, retirees, tribal employees and newly eligible Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) members in the military.
Programs Participating in Open Season
In addition to health insurance plans under the FEHB, 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.
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.
Important Changes for the 2019 FEHB Plans
Some insurance plans are reducing service areas, adding service areas or making changes to options and enrollment codes. There is also a new plan entering the FEHB program in Colorado. For complete details and actions impacted employees need to take, see Important Changes Coming for Some FEHB Plans in 2019.
New Plan from Blue Cross
Blue Cross, one of the larger insurance providers in the FEHB, announced it has a new plan called FEP Blue Focus for federal employees and retirees.
FEP Blue Focus includes preventive care, along with access to the nationwide BCBS network comprised of 96 percent of hospitals and 95 percent of doctors, and to more than 65,000 preferred retail pharmacies. FEP Blue Focus members will pay just $10 each for their first 10 primary and/or specialty care visits and will pay little or no cost for services that support good health. Members will also have access to generic prescription drugs and will be covered when traveling overseas.
Plans Leaving the FEHB in 2019
Some insurance plans are leaving the FEHB in 2019. This is a list of the plans that are leaving along with important details that impacted federal employees need to know.
FEDVIP for Military Members
An important change for this year is that military families and retirees will need to go through the federal benefits open season to enroll for coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) as a replacement to TRICARE.
Most TRICARE retirees and their families can enroll in FEDVIP for dental coverage, vision coverage, or both. Many active duty military families may enroll in FEDVIP vision coverage. Military families and retirees who enroll in FEDVIP during open season will be able to choose from ten dental carriers and four vision carriers to select the plan that best meets their family’s needs.