Open Season closes in two weeks. If you’ve been distracted by Thanksgiving or simply don’t want to think about changing around your benefits plan, now is the time to start (and finish) before the Dec. 14 deadline.
Here are a few reminders and handy links to help you navigate the next 14 days.
Self-plus-one covers an enrollee and one eligible family member. According to the Office of Personnel Management’s site, that family member includes:
Your spouse (including a valid common law marriage) and children under age 26, including legally adopted children, stepchildren and recognized natural (born out of wedlock) children. Foster children are included if they live with you in a regular parent-child relationship. A child age 26 or over who is incapable of self-support because of a mental or physical disability that existed before age 26 is also an eligible family member.
The self-plus-one plan is estimated to save employees upward of $200, said health insurance expert Walton Francis. You get the same survivor rights, benefits, etc. as self-plus-family. And it’s cheaper than two self-only enrollments.
This is a new option for employees under the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, and interest has been so great, OPM officials said the agency is hosting a limited enrollment period in February for active employees who want a second chance at the switch.
Limited enrollment period
OPM stressed to Federal News Radio that February is not about hosting another Open Season, but a limited enrollment period that is just that — limited.
It will be for active employees currently enrolled in self-and-family who realized switching to self-plus-one would be better for them.
Employees will only be able to move from self-and-family to self-plus-one in their current plan. They will not be able to make any other enrollment changes.
This limited period won’t apply to annuitants because they can decrease enrollment at any time.
Be patient but persistent
Thanks to the immense interest in self-plus-one, this Open Season has turned into the busiest on record.
Federal News Radio reported earlier this month that the Employee Express online portal, which is hosted by OPM, was frustrating federal employees with a sluggish system. That was caused in large part by the agency’s cybersecurity updates, but it certainly didn’t help that more people than usual were attempting to access the portal. That in turn pushed people to call OPM’s help desk and overload the hotline.
OPM admitted the help desk volume “increased significantly and users were experiencing very long wait times.”
The agency is working to smooth out wrinkles — including temporarily extending its help desk hours.
The Office of Personnel Management’s special Open Season number is 800-332-9798. Visit OPM’s premiums site or head to your Human Resources office for answers.
Don’t be overwhelmed
Yes, there are many options to choose from when it comes to picking the plan that’s right for you, and even more choices when it comes to plan providers. But don’t be intimidated. Open Season is the time to ask questions, do your research and make any changes to better protect yourself and your loved ones.
And after all that, if you do not want to change your present insurance coverage, you don’t have to do anything — unless your plan no longer participates in the FEHB program. Your current coverage will continue automatically.
Help is a click away
Any valuations on plans and how they affect your particular circumstances are best answered by OPM or a federal benefits expert. Senior Correspondent Mike Causey is also hosting another free online chat with Walton Francis on Dec. 2. In this forum, he’ll do his best to answer individual questions.