Open Season Brings Changes to Federal Health Benefits

Federal employees have until December 14 to add, delete or otherwise change their federal health benefits through the FEHB program.

federal health benefitsOpen enrollment is also available for qualifying federal employees and eligible family members (children—up to age 26– and spouses). Open enrollment season is the time for employees to make changes to their policies, reduce or add coverage. Individuals who qualify for federal employee health benefits have the option to do one or more of the following:

-Enroll, if not already participating
-Cancel Enrollment
-Change plans
-Change from self only to self and family coverage.
-Change from self and family to self only coverage.

This open season adds a new coverage option for federal employees. In addition to Self Only and Self and Family, employees may also add Self plus One. Self-coverage covers the employee only. Self and Family offers coverage to the employee and qualified family members, which include:

-Spouses (including common law)
-Children under the age of 26 including natural children, legally adopted children and stepchildren
-Most foster children in your care
-Children over the age of 26 who cannot care for themselves due to a mental or physical disability that was present before age 26.

Self Plus One

The new plan, “Self plus One”, provides health coverage for the employee and one family member. The new plan is cheaper than the self plus family and offers a more affordable option for families who do not have children or additional dependents to cover. The self plus one plan was approved in 2013, but does not take effect until January 2016, though interested parties should register before December 14, to qualify for this next year.

Eligibility requirements for the additional family member are the same as the traditional policies. Spouses, children under the age of 26 and individuals with mental disabilities that occurred before the age of 26 may be the additional individual covered under the policy.

Not a Benefit to all Families

A Human Resources Specialist with the Air Force, Erica Cathro, told reporters that some families might see a savings by choosing the self plus one, but not all employees. Employees should look closely at the plans to determine whether this new option will actually save them money. Cathro explained, “The formula used to calculate the government contribution is based on the average of al plan premiums and requires that the Office of Personnel Management calculate a maximum contribution for each enrollment type. If a plan’s premium costs exceed the government allotted contribution for a self only, self plus one or self and family enrollment, the employee must pay the remaining amount.”

Federal employees are encouraged to compare the self plus one plan with self plus family to see if the change will help them.

Any employees who choose to cover their family are responsible for contacting the HR department during the year to update coverage for family members including new children and children aging out of coverage.
Federal employees may also notice chances to the flexible spending accounts. New to this year’s policies include the elimination of a grace period and the addition of an allowable $500 carryover of unused funds. In addition, employees must reenroll for the next year to receive any of their carryover funds.

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