Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 28 to show the current number of participating carriers provided by an update from OPM on Thursday.

Federal employees preparing to elect their health insurance benefits this fall will see overall premiums increase an average of 5.8% for plan year 2024.

That means the average employee’s share will increase by 7.7%.

Rate increases are typical for the FEHB program, which each year is evaluated against cost changes in the market due to inflation, an aging population and fluctuation of benefits and health technology. Last year, premiums ballooned an average of 8.7% for non-Postal employees, in part because of high prescription drug prices and lingering COVID-19 claims that put added demand on the program.

In years past, increases have more modest: costs increased 3.8% in 2022, 4.9% in 2021, and 5.6% in 2020.

The government shares in the cost, with employees contributing about 25% of the total premium. OPM and benefits carriers negotiate benefits and rates for each plan year.

“Federal employees, like all Americans, are constantly bombarded by the rising cost of health insurance, but today’s announcement is especially difficult to bear on the eve of a potentially catastrophic government shutdown,” said Doreen Greenwald, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement.

This year, the increase breaks down to an average additional cost of $8.05 per biweekly pay period for a self-only plan, an additional $16.73 for a self-plus-one, and an additional $21.16 for the family plan. Depending on the plan, employees may pay more or less than the benchmarks offered by OPM.

Workers will also have fewer plans to choose from after one carrier, Humana, announced it was leaving the FEHB program, according to the Office of Personnel Management. That does not affect Humana’s participation in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance program, however.

For 2024, 68 carriers will offer a total of 158 plan choices, down from 271 in 2023.

It’s the first of much more open season information to come as OPM prepares for the annual routine of allowing employees to elect or change their benefits. This year, open season will begin on Nov. 13 and close on Dec. 11. FEHB is the largest employer-sponsored health care program in the country, covering 9 million people, including employees, annuitants and their family members, as well as some former spouses.

For retirees, almost half of FEHB plans offer incentives to enroll in Medicare Part B via premium reimbursement or other incentives, said William Shackelford, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, in a statement.

“Retirees should also pay attention to the new and existing plans that will offer Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plans that automatically coordinate with their FEHB plan through an Employer Group Waiver Plan,” he said. “The EGWP option will allow retirees to take advantage of coverage enhancements such as a $35 per month cap on insulin products, drug coverage protections, and more.”

Here are some other big changes to look out for.

Changes in vision, dental benefits relatively flat

Premiums for dental and vision will also be increasing, albeit much less.

According to OPM, the average premium for dental plans will increase 1.4%. For vision, enrollees can expect an small cost increase of 1.1%.

Twelve dental carriers are offering 23 plans in 2024, and five vision carriers are operating 10 nationwide plans.

Coverage for mental, maternal health

OPM also said that carriers are expected this year to cover a range of enhanced services to address areas that in the past have been limited.

Many of them continue commitments made last year to ensure more wide ranging coverage of obesity medication, mental health and substance-use disorder services and gender-affirming care for transgender individuals.

OPM also said it expects carrier to provide maternal health care options, including prenatal and postpartum care by including childbirth education classes, group prenatal care, home visits and care management for high-risk pregnancies.

Employees and members of Congress have also pushed carriers to do more to cover expensive procedures related to reproductive health care, including intrauterine, intracervical and intravaginal insemination, and specific in vitro fertilization drugs for three cycles a year.

FSAFeds: Flexible spending accounts

During open enrollment, employees may choose to elect pre-tax contributions to a health care or dependant care flexible spending account.

The FSAFeds program gives employees the option to set aside money pre-tax to pay for certain medical, dental, and vision care expenses that are not covered otherwise by health insurance.

Beginning in 2024, OPM is also expanding FSA eligibility to an estimated 400,000 service members who have eligible dependents.

Is open season affected by a government shutdown?

According to OPM’s shutdown guidance from 2021, an employee furloughed due to a lapse in appropriations can still enroll in or make changes to their benefits.

And FEHB coverage will continue during a lapse, even if the agency is not contributing premium payments on time. Once the shutdown is over, employees will be billed for their share of premiums that accumulated while they were in non-pay status.

Open season 2024 resources

Plan details and comparison tools will be updated by Nov. 13, OPM said. Check back for updates on specific coverage details in the coming weeks.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In Other News
Load More