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Preparation Tips for FEHB Open Season 2019

Federal Civilian Life

Over the duration of a year, many things can change for your family in terms of your health plan needs. If you got married or had a child, you may need a different level of coverage. For example, if you received a serious diagnosis, you might need to make some changes in anticipation of future needs. Each year, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) offers the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) Open Season to allow you to evaluate your circumstances and your options.

When Is FEHB Open Season?

OPM notified agencies that this year’s FEHB Open Season will run from November 11 through December 9, 2019. Changes made go into effect on January 1, 2020. Agencies have received initial instructions and materials for employees. During this period, active federal employees can take care of several tasks.

  • Enroll in a Federal Employees Health Benefits plan for the first time
  • Change health plans or change options within a program
  • Opt-out of a plan in which you’re enrolled
  • Change your enrollment type (self-only, self plus one, or family coverage)
  • Adjust the amount you’re contributing to your Federal Flexible Spending Account for dependent care or health care

Retirees cannot enroll in a medical plan for the first time, but they can make changes to plans in which they already participate.

What’s New for OPM Open Season in 2019?

OPM has already announced that an indemnity benefit plan with two new options will be available for the first time since the 1980s. Sponsored by the Government Employees Health Association, this plan offers covered individuals the ability to choose to see any medical professional for care if he or she is willing to pay any charges beyond the usual and customary rate.

In its communication with FEHB carriers, OPM emphasized controlling prescription drug costs and wellness programs as areas of focus for 2020. The administration also opened the door to plans that incentivize enrollees to use lower-cost options for care. In a break from long-standing policy, OPM is also allowing carriers to add new benefits, even if they add some cost. Historically all-new offerings were required to be cost-neutral.

What About Benefits Other Than the Medical Plan?

Open Season includes the Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program, flexible spending accounts, and life insurance.

Dental and Vision

As usual, the dental and vision offerings change little in terms of coverage. Of note to retirees, while they can’t enroll in a medical plan for the first time, they can complete an initial enrollment for dental and vision coverage.

FSA (Flexible Spending Account)

During Open Season, active employees can sign up for a health care or dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) or both. While medical, dental, and vision enrollments stay the same from year to year unless you make changes, you must re-enroll every year to keep your FSA contributions going.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is not part of Open Season, but you can still apply for Group Term Life coverage at any time during the year. Open Season is an excellent time to do an annual review of your life insurance needs to make sure your family is taken care of if something unexpected should happen.

How Do I Determine What’s Best for My Situation?

OPM provides an online tool that you can use to compare the various plans available to you. Once it is updated with 2020 plan information, you can search for the options available to you using your location or employee type, and you can review any changes to the plan you already have. If you prefer paper, each agency will distribute a brochure to describe the plans and modifications before Open Season.

The most valuable step you can take to determine the best coverage available to you is to assess your own medical and financial situation carefully. Here are a few questions to help you get started:

1. Existing Medical Conditions

Do you or any covered family member have a medical condition that will require extensive treatment in the new year? If so, it may be worth it to pay more for a plan that pays out more on your claims.

2. Minimal Medical Needs

If everyone is healthy and only goes in for routine checkups and minor illnesses, you may be better off to pay less for a plan with less coverage while putting away extra cashflow in savings. For example, let’s say you choose a high-deductible plan with a medical savings account. You put away enough into your savings account to cover the premiums after taxes. If you have low medical costs and you don’t have to take much out of the savings account, you may end up with more money at the end of the year.

3. Compare Your Spouse’s Medical Plan

If you’re married, compare your coverage with that offered by your spouse or partner’s employer. Most people find that plans under the FEHB program provides better coverage at a lower cost, so you may be able to drop the other coverage and save that money.

It’s Always Open Season with WAEPA

Weighing Your Options Against FEGLI

Open Season serves as a reminder to review all of your medical, dental, vision, life insurance, and FSA options. Life changes rapidly, and many of those changes influence your benefit choices. When it comes to life insurance, don’t assume that the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) is always the best option.

WAEPA Is For Feds, By Feds

WAEPA offers Group Term Life Insurance coverage that can serve as an economical supplement or replacement for FEGLI. Rates can cost less. Plus, WAEPA offers exclusive member benefits tailored specifically to Civilian Feds and their families, including free financial planning, premium refunds,** scholarships, and more.

Underwritten by New York Life Insurance Company on Policy Form GMR
*Premium refunds not guaranteed.