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Senators press OPM to let feds carry over health account money

Dec. 19, 2013 - 05:40PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

The Office of Personnel Management should let federal workers carry over some of the money they save in their flexible spending health accounts into next year, Democratic senators urged the agency this week.

The accounts, formally known as Health Flexible Spending Arrangements, allow workers to set aside a maximum of $2,500 annually to cover copayments for doctor visits and other bills that insurance doesn’t pay for.

Under the current “use or lose” system, however, participants forfeit any unspent money each year; as a result, almost 31,000 federal employees lost an average of $392 each in fiscal 2012, according to 55 senators — all of them Democrats or independents allied with Democrats —who co-signed a Dec. 17 letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. While the IRS recently gave employers the go-ahead to let participants keep up to $500 of their unused account balances at the end of a plan year, federal employees still need OPM’s approval to take advantage of the change in 2013, according to the letter.

“We are told that, as of last week, OPM had not yet decided whether to extend the carryover option to the federal workforce,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that the agency should do so “without delay.” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., released a copy of the letter Thursday; in an email, OPM spokesman Edmund Byrnes said the agency will respond after reviewing it thoroughly.

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