Federal life insurance Open Season signals time to reevaluate health benefits

Open Season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is fast approaching, but starting Sept. 1, for the first time in 10 years federal employees can en...

Halloween candy and even some Christmas lights are gracing store shelves as retailers prepare for the holidays, but this time of year, the Office of Personnel Management is gearing up for the 2016 Open Season — starting with a series of online resources for feds, and an Open Season for life insurance.

According to documents from OPM Healthcare and Insurance Director John O’Brien addressed to agency benefits officers,  employees beginning mid-September will start receiving checklists, FAQs and Federal Employees Health Benefits announcements, as well as a visual resource for how the various federal health insurance programs are related.

Federal News Radio obtained the documents, which were first reported by FedSmith.com.

The 2016 FEHB Program open season is scheduled for Nov. 14 through Dec. 12.



Not getting your money’s worth in life insurance

While the main FEHBP Open Season is still two months off, the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program Open Season starts Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 30. For the first time in a decade, government employees can enroll or increase coverage to their federal life insurance without a medical exam or answering health questions.

Current enrollees can cancel or reduce coverage, or change beneficiaries at any time.

“This is a time when employees who are otherwise uninsurable can add their life insurance coverage,” said Tammy Flanagan, senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning, on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “With FEGLI, when they hold an open enrollment, anybody can sign up. They’re not going to ask how’s your health. They’re not going to take your blood pressure. They’re just going to say how much coverage would you like to have.”

A person can even be at home on life support, Flanagan said, but the person must be alive a year from now, when coverage goes into effect in October 2017.

FEGLI does not have a cash value and is not whole life insurance like the kind in the private sector. Flanagan explained that the premiums a federal employee pays into the plan only provide a benefit to the designated beneficiary.

“This is one of those benefits you really don’t want to get your money’s worth,” Flanagan said.

Often, a federal employee will purchase the insurance after a major life event, such as buying a house or starting a family, to ensure there is a safety net in case something were to happen to them.

“Sometimes we forget to reevaluate that need for life insurance as we get older,” Flanagan said. “Sometimes it does makes sense to drop it or reduce the coverage as we get older and don’t have that need as much as we did in our younger years.”

While cheaper premiums exist in the private market, Flanagan said, the benefits of FEGLI are that the life insurance increases proportionately with a fed’s salary increase. Couple that with the fact a person doesn’t have to be insurable to get on a plan, and most employees tend to go with the federal program.

Open Season resources

OPM is not publishing the printed or online version of the Guide to Federal Benefits, but the information included in the guide can be found on the FEHB Program website.

During Open Season, federal employees can take the following actions:

  • Enroll in a flexible spending account (FSA).
  • Enroll in, change or cancel an existing dental plan enrollment under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
  • Enroll in, change or cancel an existing vision plan enrollment under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
  • Enroll in, change, or cancel an existing enrollment in a health plan under the FEHB Program.

The Open Season Checklist includes a breakdown of FSAFEDS, FEDVIP and FEHBP and what corresponding online materials employees need to help make their choice.

The checklist also includes enrollment advice on predicting expenses, comparing plans, as well as how to review one’s current health plan.

Employees are also getting an Open Season Helpful Resources list for the three insurance programs.

The resources list includes where to go to get general information on Open Season and FSAs to determining out-of-pocket costs for dental plans and learning more about self-plus-one.

OPM is also providing a frequently questioned services resource that addresses medical treatments commonly brought up in questions about whether or not they are covered under benefit programs. These include infertility treatment, gym memberships, hearing aids and transportation for medical care.

OPM is announcing the lowest-cost nationwide plan during the Open Season rollout. The 2017 premiums are set to be announced in early October, and 2017 plan information is scheduled to be available by the first week of November.

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