This year’s Federal Employees Health Benefits program open season runs Nov. 11 - Dec. 9. During that time employees, retirees and survivors who are enrolled in an FEHB plan can decide if they want to stay where they are or choose a different plan or option. If you are an employee who isn’t already enrolled, you’ll be able to do that. If you are a retiree who isn’t enrolled, you can’t.
The average premium increase in 2020 is 4 percent, a big jump from last year’s historically low increase of 1.3 percent. Because the actual premium increase varies by plan and option, you’ll have to check to find out whether your plan’s increase has gone up by a little or a lot.
To find out if there are any changes from the benefits your plan offered last year (or if you are a newcomer who wants to explore the options), you can access all the plans on OPM’s website at www.opm.gov/FEHBbrochures. If you are an employee, you can also get answers to specific enrollment questions by checking with your agency’s headquarters benefit officer.
Just remember, if you are happy with your plan and not put off by the price change, you don’t have to do anything. Your current enrollment will automatically continue into the next calendar year.
While the primary focus during any open season is selecting the plan or option that best fits your anticipated needs during the upcoming calendar year, there’s something else you need to keep in mind, especially if you are close to retirement. As a rule, you must have been continuously enrolled in the FEHB program for the five consecutive years before you retire to carry your FEHB coverage into retirement. However, there are two exceptions to that rule:
First, if you were enrolled in the FEHB program before your agency’s latest offer to retire under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and you accepted that offer, you can carry that coverage into retirement.
Second, if you are covered by Tricare or CHAMPVA, enroll in the FEHB program before you retire, and that combination meets the five-year rule, then you, too, can carry that coverage into retirement.