Your Top Questions on Federal Open Season Answered

Open season for federal employees is less than two weeks away, which means you may be scrambling to figure out your health care options. We’re here to help.

During GovLoop’s recent online training, “Understanding Your Health Benefits,” we tackled some of our community’s most pressing questions about Federal Open Season, which kicks off Nov. 11 and ends Dec. 9.

To help feds prepare to select or update their benefits packages, Lori Amos, Assistant Director of Healthcare and Insurance at the Office of Personnel Management, shared insights on what you need to know about open enrollment. Below we’ve included some general information about the program, as well as some of the top questions you asked and the answers Amos provided.

First, some info on the plans.

1. Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB): is the health insurance plan for current federal employees, former employees, retirees, family members and former spouses.

  • 279 options are available across the program
  • 18 are nationwide, which means all feds have at least 18 programs to consider

2. Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP): is the voluntary program for dental and vision benefits.

3. Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS): is a voluntary account that active employees can pay into for out-of-pocket medical and dependent care costs. And, it’s deducted before taxes.

  • It’s a little-known program, that Amos highly encourages more feds to take advantage of.
  • Did you know you could use this account to pay for things such as daycare, eyeglasses, massage therapy, laser eye surgery and … sunblock?

Now, onto the questions.

Q: I’m a married person without children, which means my health care is more expensive than a couple with children. Do I need to have a kid in order to have more affordable health care?

Amos: You don’t. If you’re currently in a Self Plus One option in an FEHB plan, and the Self and Family costs less, you can change to that option. The same works vice versa as well.

In other words, if you’re married without children, you can choose either the Self Plus One option or the Self and Family option.

Q: How do you incorporate Medicaid benefits into your benefit planning process if you’re planning on retiring?

This year, we’ve modified our Plan Comparison Tool to include out-of-pocket expenses based on what you have for Medicare. You can enter the information specific to you.

I would highly recommend going to the tool particularly if you’re evaluating Medicare expenses with your health insurance plan.

Q: If you don’t use the money put into your FSA account, what happens to it?

Qualifying participants can carry over $500 of unused funds to next year’s plan.

So if you put in more than $500 and don’t use it, the money would be lost?

Yes.

In other words, be wary of the $500 rollover limit!

Q: How do you know what kinds of things you should be thinking about in order to choose the right kind of care?

We get that question a lot. This is probably one of the biggest decisions most federal employees make in their careers.

I would advise you really take the time to evaluate all the info you have available to you. With 279 options — that is a lot of info. Take the time to figure out what is best for you and your family.

How can I start?

I would start with the OPM website and the brochures on the website. I would also recommend going to your agency benefit office and asking for an HR specialist for a one-on-one if you need it.

Finally, some quick-fire questions.

Q: If you enroll in a new plan during open season, does that automatically cancel your previous plan?

Yes.

Q: If you’re unmarried and you have a child, can you select the Self and Family Plan?

Yes.

Q: When do dental benefits end for dependents?

At age 22. Health benefits end at age 26.

Q: How do I know if my vision plan is nationwide?

All vision plans are nationwide.

Q: How do I cut back or cancel my dental and vision plan?

So, there are very limited reasons available to change your dental plan.

What I would suggest is to go to benefed.com. They will be able to answer your question based on the case that’s presented.

Q: Does government match funds up to a specific amount for FSAFEDS, like a health savings account (HSA)?

No.

This online training was sponsored by:

Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply