OPM Proposes New Protections for Federal Employees’ Health Benefits During Future Shutdowns

OPM is issuing a proposed rule which would ensure federal employees will not have interruptions in some of their health benefits in the event of a shutdown.

Update: The rule has been published in the Federal Register as of July 20, 2020.

The Office of Personnel Management will be issuing a proposed rule which would deem certain federal employee benefits to be essential, thereby ensuring their continuation during future partial government shutdowns.

According to the proposed rule which is set to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, July 20, the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program and Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) would be designated as emergency services under the Antideficiency Act, thereby making them “essential” under any future lapse in appropriations.

“…[Federal] employees furloughed as a result of a lapse in appropriations shall, during such lapse, be deemed to be in pay status, for purposes of enrolling or changing enrollment in the FEHB Program,” reads the proposed rule.

Under current regulations, federal employees who are furloughed normally cannot make enrollment changes to their FEHB options.

OPM’s proposed rule also would also ensure that coverage for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) and the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) would continue for enrollees who are furloughed or excepted from furlough and working without pay due to a lapse in appropriations. Coverage “may not be cancelled as a result of nonpayment of premiums or other periodic charges due to such a lapse” and program “premiums will be paid from back pay or may be paid back from another source for FLTCIP enrollees who elected to make payments directly to the Carrier,” states the proposed rule.

Under current regulations, if a partial government shutdown goes on for more than two consecutive pay periods, FEDVIP and FLTCIP premiums can be billed directly to enrollees.

OPM will be accepting comments on the proposed rule once it is officially published in the Federal Register.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.