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2015 COLA Update

Federal retirees in the CSRS and FERS retirement systems may receive a COLA increase of 2% or more in 2015. Complete COLA information is available on this site. Active federal employee's pay may increase 3% in 2015 if administration's request is accepted by Congress.  

Retiree JOB Opportunities

Many job opportunities are available for federal retirees − and those planning to retire soon − to earn additional income in retirement. Our Jobs Board has updated listings targeted to federal retirees. Many companies seek out retired federal employees due to their government experience and contacts. You can also explore high paying opportunities for those that hold current Security Clearances.  

   

 

FEHB

 
 

Federal Employee's and Annuitant's Insurance Benefits

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Federal Employee's Health Benefit's Plan Menu
Federal regulations require an annual Open Season to be held each year from the Monday of the second full workweek in November through the Monday of the second full workweek in December. You must submit your Open Season enrollment change before midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on the last day of Open Season to be considered timely filed. Open Season enrollment changes take effect the first day of your first full pay period in January of the following year. Certain life events also provide an opportunity to change plans such as marriage, birth of a child, a move out of the service area of your plan and other qualifying events.

 

FEHB Menu

Open Season

 

 

Open Season ends December 9th. Generally the cost of coverage is increasing an average of 4.4% this year. Several plans have actually decreased their premiums.  

If you do not make the change during open season, you may not be able to change health plans until 2015. Don’t let an increased cost in health insurance be an unfortunate surprise that adversely affects your finances. Luckily, it is easy to verify the cost of the FEHB insurance for 2014.  For a quick check of the cost changes for FEHB review OPM's Premium Rates for the Federal Employees

In addition, in an effort to be more “green,” paper copies of health plan brochures will not be automatically mailed to Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program members this open season.  This is the first year of this change. 

 

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program has important features, including a wide choice of health plans and competitive benefit packages as well as no health insurance pre existing conditions limitations or waiting periods. Now, for 2011, they have eliminated enrollee cost sharing for preventive care services, added incentives for tobacco cessation, and, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, added coverage for dependents up to age 26. Premiums will rise an average of 7.2% in 2011.

2012 Open Season 2014 Open Season (November 11, 2013 through December 9, 2013)

You are now able to manage your FEHB account online. To register you will need your Annuity Claim Number and they will ask you to enter a unique user name and password to activate your account. You must register again for each new open season even though you registered for the previous year. I annotated the web site address, user name, and password in the "Federal Retirement Benefits" booklet that I received when I first retired for future reference. Go to https://retireefehb.opm.gov to register and view your options. This service allows you to change enrollment, view transaction history, change or add dependent information, and request health care plan brochures.

Overview

 

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program helps you and your family meet your health care needs. Federal employees, retirees and their survivors enjoy the widest selection of health plans in the country. You can choose from among Consumer-Driven and High Deductible plans that offer catastrophic risk protection with higher deductibles, health savings/reimbursable accounts and lower premiums, or Fee-for-Service (FFS) plans, and their Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), or Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) if you live (or sometimes if you work) within the area serviced by the plan.

When you retire your agency will automatically transfer your enrollment to OPM if you are eligible. To continue your health benefits enrollment into retirement, you must:

  1. have retired on an immediate annuity (that is, an annuity which begins to accrue no later than one month after the date of your final separation); and
  2. have been continuously enrolled (or covered as a family member) in any FEHB Program plan (not necessarily the same plan) for the five years of service immediately preceding retirement, or if less than five years, for all service since your first opportunity to enroll.
  • Note: Tricare does count towards the 5-years of coverage requirement as long as you have FEHB coverage on the date of retirement. The annuitant and spouse, If the annuitant elects survivor benefits, would continue FEHB coverage under the annuitant's annuity even if the annuitant predeceases the spouse.  For more information see:  http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/eligibility/index.asp

If you die while a compensationer, your family members can continue your enrollment if you were enrolled for Self and Family at the time of your death and at least one of your covered family members receives compensation as a surviving beneficiary under the Federal Employees' Compensation law.

Same-Sex Spousal Coverage

 

Same-sex spouses that are legally married are now eligible family members under a Family and Self enrollment. Coverage for legally married same-sex spouses of Federal employees or annuitants is now available, regardless of their state of residency.

Coverage does not extend to registered domestic partners or individuals in civil unions. Additionally, children of same-sex marriages will be treated in the same manner as those of opposite-sex marriages and will be eligible family members according to the same eligibility guidelines. This includes coverage for children of same-sex spouses as stepchildren.

The word “spouse” in any OPM documentation pertaining to the programs discussed in the Benefits Administration Letter refers to both same and opposite-sex spouses, the word “marriage” refers to both same and opposite-sex marriages, and the word “child” refers to children of both same and opposite-sex marriages.

Requirements for Surviving Family Members 

 

 

For your surviving family members to continue your health benefits enrollment after your death, all of the following requirements must be met:

  • You must have been enrolled for Self and Family at the time of your death; and
  • At least one family member must be entitled to an annuity as your survivor.

All of your survivors who meet the definition of "family member" can continue their health benefits coverage under your enrollment as long as any one of them is entitled to a survivor annuity. If the survivor annuitant is the only eligible family member, the retirement system will automatically change the enrollment to Self Only. Your surviving spouse should follow up with OPM to insure this action was taken. If it wasn't, your spouse will be paying considerably higher Family Option premiums.

Under FERS, your surviving spouse who is entitled to a basic employee death benefit, or your surviving children whose benefits are offset by Social Security, may continue your health benefits enrollment by paying premiums directly to OPM.

If the survivor annuity is not large enough to cover the enrollee share of the premiums for your plan, your survivors may either change to a lower-cost plan or option (one in which the enrollee share of the premium is low enough to be withheld from the annuity) or choose to pay the premiums directly to the retirement system. Even if your employing office thinks that the survivor annuity will not cover the enrollee share of the premiums, your retirement system will transfer in the enrollment. The retirement system will notify your survivors of their options and take whatever actions they request.

When your surviving spouse will not receive any survivor benefits because your former spouse has a court-ordered entitlement to a survivor annuity, your surviving spouse can continue FEHB coverage if you had a Self and Family enrollment. The retirement system will notify your surviving spouse of his/her options and take whatever actions are requested.

Minimum Annuity Requirements for FEHB Spouse Coverage

 

 

When the retiree's spouse is not a federal employee they will most likely need FEHB coverage in retirement. The rules are different for CSRS and FERS employees and this is a major consideration for federal employees who intend to retire and leave their spouse other than a full survivors annuity.

Under CSRS your spouse will be eligible for FEHB coverage as long as you provide them with a survivors annuity. It can be any amount. In my opinion it is best to provide a survivors annuity large enough to cover FEHB expenses however it isn't necessary. If you elect a survivors annuity of $3600, enough to cover many plan costs, your annuity will be reduced by 2.5%.

FERS retirees must elect either 50% or 25% survivors annuity for your spouse to be eligible for FEHB coverage in retirement after the annuitant's death. The 50% election will cost you 10% of your full annuity and the 25% survivor annuity election will cost you 5% of your full annuity in retirement.

CLARIFICATION: We receive a number of questions from site visitors about spousal FEHB coverage in retirement. A spouse of an annuitant can continue coverage under the annuitant's FEHB plan after retirement when an annuitant doesn't elect a survivor's benefit until the annuitant's death. After the annuitant's death, the spouse can no longer continue FEHB coverage since in this case the employee did not elect a spousal survivor benefit. Reference OPM's "Guide to Federal Benefits." A federal employee MUST elect a minimum survivor's benefit for the spouse to be eligible for FEHB covered after the annuitant's death. 

Canceling Coverage in Retirement

If you cancel your FEHB enrollment as an annuitant, you won't be able to reenroll in the FEHB program. There are no exceptions for other employment insurance.  However, there is an exception if you suspend your FEHB enrollment because you are now covered by a Medicare Advantage plan, TRICARE, CHAMPVA, Medicaid or similar State-sponsored medical assistance program, or Peace Corps Volunteer coverage, you can restart your FEHB in the future. Annuitants can call OPM's Retirement Information Office at 1-888-767-6738 to obtain a suspension form. Callers within the local Washington, DC calling area must call 202-606-0500.

Retiree Perspective

I changed from an HMO to the Basic Blue Cross plan before retiring. We knew we would be traveling and that Blue Cross was accepted in most, if not all major locations nationwide. The change also dramatically reduced our monthly premiums and our level of service actually improved. We were pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of their plan and the Basic Option 112 plan is fashioned after an HMO model from our perspective. We also considered their Standard plan but didn't feel comfortable with the deductibles and you really don't know what the charges to you would be until after a procedure was done. The benefit of the Standard plan is that you can use any service provider even if they aren't a preferred provider.  The Basic plan required you to use preferred providers and if you do use a non-preferred provider you must pay the bill in most cases except for emergency care.

Dennis V. Damp, Retired FAA

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