Preparation Tips for FEHB Open Season 2019
As a federal employee, it is important to ask yourself if your current health plan is working for you. A change in marital status or a newly discovered medical condition can impact your coverage needs. To better adjust to the unexpected events in life, the Office of Personnel Management hosts its annual Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) Open Season.
When Is Open Season?
The United States Office of Personnel Management announced that the Open Season for Federal Employee Health Benefits will start on Monday, November 12, 2018, and end on Monday, December 10, 2018. During this time, eligible federal employees and annuitants have the opportunity to do the following:
- Enroll in a plan
- Change plans
- Change plan options
- Change enrollment type
- Cancel enrollment
Additionally, employees can make adjustments to their Federal Flexible Spending Account program, such as making pre-tax contributions to the dependent care and/or health care flexible spending accounts. Any changes made during Open Season will take effect on January 1, 2019.
OPM has made several changes that impact open enrollment for federal employees. Perhaps the most significant difference is with premiums. According to the OPM, rates will increase by 1.3 percent ― the lowest rate hike since 1996. Employees can obtain more information from OPM’s 2019 FEHB program premium rates, highlighting monthly and bi-weekly premium costs, as well as the following:
- Premium changes from last year
- The amount the government pays
- Total premiums
Additionally, employees now have more than 280 health plans to choose from. While this sounds substantial, the options vary by the enrollee and geographic location. Enrollees can visit provider websites to obtain details, with a few other changes including:
- Improved chronic condition management
- Better incentives for FEHB enrollees who have Medicare Part B
- Increased availability of telehealth services
Moreover, 33 percent of High-Deductible Health Plans will provide more money to enrollees who have qualified medical expenses. This is due to OPM lifting the limit on the premium amount HDHP’s contribute to an enrollee’s tax-advantaged savings account.
How do I prepare?
You want the best health care plan to meet your needs. One of the best things to do is compare FEHB plans using OPM’s online tool. In the meantime, here are five tips to help with the process:
Read the brochure
Health plans can change from year to year. Refer to the “How We Changed” or similar section to see the current benefits being offered.
Consider high expenses
Do you use or anticipate using an expensive medical service? If so, focus on plans that pay well. With all things being equal, go with a plan that gives you the most for your money.
Set up a Flexible Spending Account
An FSA is an excellent way to lower healthcare costs. Keep in mind, the only time you can open this account is during the Open Season.
Stay away from a significant risk
Many people drop their federal benefits when their spouse’s insurance covers them. Even though this saves money on premiums, the best option is to get rid of the spousal insurance and opt for a health insurance plan provided by the FEHB program.
Get “free” health coverage
There are high-deductible plans that offer savings accounts that exceed premium costs after taxes. If you have low medical costs, you may end up with more money by the end of the year compared to what you started with.
Take Care of Your Needs
The FEHB program open enrollment season gives you an opportunity to evaluate your needs, choosing the best healthcare and life insurance plans for you and your family. While it is not Open Season for Life Insurance, and you can apply for Group Term Life Insurance* coverage from WAEPA at any point in the year, Open Season is a perfect time to conduct an audit of all your insurance and benefit packages. Compare our rates with FEGLI’s today to see how WAEPA can offer competitive rates compared to FEGLI, free resources tailored specifically to Civilian Feds, and unmatched Member Benefits, including our Premium Refund Program.
Formed For Feds, By Feds, Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies (WAEPA) is dedicated to providing access to products and services promoting the health, welfare and financial well-being of its members. We are a nonprofit association (not an insurance company) established in 1943 with over 44,000 Members.
*Underwritten by New York Life Insurance Company, 51 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010 on Policy Form GMR
This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.