Federal health insurance providers have been mandated and encouraged to implement certain provisions to their 2021 plan offerings that will aid federal employees in remaining safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“OPM has taken multiple actions to safeguard the health and wellbeing of federal employees and annuitants during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Laurie Bodenheimer, acting director for healthcare and insurance at OPM, said in an Oct. 14 press call.

“FEHB carriers must waive cost-sharing and prior authorization requirements for any COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and then the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security or the CARES Act.”

Though a vaccine has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for mass use, legislation also requires that all federal insurance plans instate coverage of that vaccine without cost sharing within 15 days of its FDA approval.

In addition to the required changes insurance carriers must make to address and prepare for COVID needs, OPM also encouraged those providers to make changes as part of their 2021 rates negotiations.

“We have also strongly encouraged all of our carriers to waive cost sharing and prior authorization requirements for telehealth or other remote care services associated with the treatment of COVID-19, and the carriers have responded nicely to that,” said Bodenheimer.

And though COVID has proven a central concern for federal health insurance through 2020 and going into 2021, the pandemic may have at least had a beneficial impact on insurance prices, as Bodenheimer said that fewer people attending appointments or pursuing certain treatments while the pandemic as at its height ultimately drove down costs for providers.

FEHB open season for 2021 plans will run from Nov. 9 though Dec. 14 this year.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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