As many federal employees miss their second paycheck because of the ongoing partial government shutdown, there was some concern that they would lose their dental and vision benefits coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP).
A letter was sent by a group of Senators to the Office of Personnel Management expressing concern about this possibility. In the letter, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said they were “alarmed” at the possibility that federal employees might have to pay their dental and vision premiums directly when they were not receiving a paycheck.
The letter noted that guidance from BENEFEDS, the online benefit management portal for FEDVIP, states:
Payroll deductions will cease for any employee that does not receive pay. BENEFEDS will generate a bill to enrollees for premiums when no payment is received for two consecutive pay periods. The enrollee should pay premiums directly bill to him/her on a timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage.
“This is unacceptable,” wrote the Senators in their letter to OPM. “We believe it is unreasonable to expect unpaid employees to take on this responsibility.”
They asked OPM to work with the providers to develop “alternative payment arrangements that ensure continuous coverage at no risk of terminated benefits.”
The letter may have had an impact. OPM was reportedly working with carriers this week to extend the grace period from two pay periods to three.
And late Wednesday, WUSA9 reporter Mike Valerio reported via Twitter that FEDVIP benefits are not at risk of being lost after Friday and will now lapse if three paychecks are missed rather than two as outlined in the BENEFEDS guidance.
• Health benefits for 800k federal workers will NOT disappear after Friday
• Benefits for employees & families will now lapse if 3 paychecks are missed
— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) January 24, 2019
OPM confirmed this in revised guidance on pay and benefits:
Your coverage will continue. However, if the lapse period is less than three consecutive pay periods, your premiums will accumulate and be withheld later when the lapse ends. If you do not receive pay for three consecutive pay periods, BENEFEDS will begin to bill you directly for premium payments. You must pay those bills on a timely basis in order to continue your coverage.