2015 Open Season ‘busiest on record’

Thanks to the immense interest in the new self-plus-one option under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the Office of Personnel Management is process...

This year’s Open Season is the ‘busiest on record,” with more than double the average transactions processed since the start of the enrollment period, officials with the Office of Personnel Management said.

Typically within the first two weeks of Open Season, the volume of changes processed is between 90,000 to 130,000. This year, OPM officials said, from the start of Open Season on Nov. 9 through Nov. 20, more than 270,000 enrollment transactions have been processed.

“The introduction of the new self-plus-one coverage option means that for 95 percent of the roughly 1 million (Federal Employee Health Benefits) contractor holders who cover only themselves and one other (a spouse or a dependent), they can achieve savings compared to the cost of a family premium,” an OPM spokesman told Federal News Radio. “This has generated enormous interest among FEHB participants.”

Interest in the self-plus-one has been so great that OPM is opening a limited enrollment period for active employees in February 2016.

The limited enrollment period is not an additional Open Season, OPM officials said.

For annuitants:

  •  The limited enrollment period does not apply to annuitants because they are allowed to decrease enrollment at any time. This means that if you have a self and family enrollment and you decide you would like to change to a self-plus-one enrollment, you may do so throughout the year. The first opportunity to do so is during this Open Season. Changes will be effective Jan. 1, 2016.
  • If you have a self-only enrollment, however, you must experience a qualifying life event in order to change to self-plus-one outside of Open Season.

For active employees:

  • This will allow active federal employee enrollees who are currently enrolled in self-and-family and would have been better served switching to self-plus-one more time to make the change.
  • Individuals will only be able to change from self-and-family coverage to self-plus-one coverage in their current plan. They will not be able to make any other enrollment changes.

Self-plus-one covers an enrollee and one eligible family member. Walton Francis, federal health expert, told Federal News Radio that savings from self-plus-one are likely to range between $100 and $200.

In September, OPM estimated that about 33 percent of the active federal employees with self or family coverage would shift to self-plus-one, while about 80 percent of the retirees would partake in the new insurance choice.

While more changes have been processed, that’s also meant more snarls in the system.

Federal News Radio  reported last week that the Employee Express online portal, which is hosted by OPM, was frustrating federal employees.

The website lets federal employees control their payroll-personnel information by making changes or updates to information such as their addresses, tax withholdings, health coverage and the Thrift Savings Plan.

Recent cyber upgrades, however, have caused the system to be sluggish, which in turn has prompted employees to call the help desk for assistance. Those calls have overloaded the help desk and caused long wait times for answers.

In response, OPM is temporarily extending the hours of the help desk operation by four hours daily. Officials are also urging the use of OPM’s website to make changes to coverage.

Self-plus-one annuitant information can be found here, while active employees can look here for a list of benefits officers here.

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