Insurance premiums for federal employees’ vision and dental insurance are holding steady again this year while general health care premiums for government workers are projected to jump an average of nearly 7.7%.
The average premium increase for plan year 2024, beginning Jan. 1, is 1.4% for dental plans and 1.1% for vision.
“The prices are very stable in terms of the premiums,” said Kevin Moss, a benefits expert for Consumers’ Checkbook. “The benefits are very stable, and that’s how that program has been working historically.”
Last year, premiums under the FEDVIP program changed by less than half a percent.
Coverage for dental and eye doctor visits fall under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. FEDVIP is a standalone, voluntary, enrollee-pay-all dental and vision program that offers beneficiaries the option to choose their carrier.
Like the Federal Employees Health Benefit program, which covers other medical treatments, FEDVIP is sponsored by the White House Office of Personnel Management. It’s administered via contractor to serve more than 7 million civil servants, service members, annuitants and their family members.
The federal government does not directly contribute to vision or dental premiums, but what helps keep costs low is the fact that the program uses affiliated providers who provide discounts because of the increased business the plans attract, according to Consumers’ Checkbook.
With premiums largely unchanged this year, federal employees interested in shopping for coverage will likely want to pay attention to what their plan covers over which is the cheapest.
This year, there are 12 dental carriers providing 23 total plans across the program. Fourteen of those plans are nationwide, meaning they are available to all enrollees without special eligibility requirements.
About half of carriers pledged to cover nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, when medically necessary this year.
For vision, there are five carriers offering 10 nationwide plans. Two of those carriers increased their frame allowance dollar amount. One reduced material copays in their high-plan option to $0 and exam copays to $0 in their standard option.
Benefeds is the enrollment processing system that specifically administers FEDVIP. If you have questions about coverage specifically, reach out to the carrier directly.
Do I need FEDVIP?
While FEHB and FEDVIP are separate programs, some medical insurance plans also include dental or vision as part of their overall benefit package. Some also offer discount programs that incentivize using a particular provider.
Moss advised that for employees who seek only occasional or preventative dental care, it may be worth foregoing the extra premium imposed by FEDVIP and sticking with what you get from your FEHB plan, if it offers anything. And if it does, be sure you are OK with using that plan’s provider network.
Staying in-network will offer the lowests costs, Moss said.
For major orthodontic work, restorative treatment or other non-routine care, paying the extra premium for FEDVIP makes sense, he added, but beware of lingering costs.
“If you have orthodontic needs in your family, either as a child or an adult, understand there’s going to be a lot of out of pocket,” he said. “I don’t want people to think, ‘OK, if I sign up for this plan, and I get this extra coverage and I’m paying this extra premium, then I won’t be paying anything out of pocket.”
This year, 70,000 temporary, intermittent and seasonal federal employees gained eligibility under the FEDVIP program thanks to a rule change implemented by OPM in July, Federal Times reported. That would apply to many who were previously excluded from coverage, including U.S. Postal Service workers, firefighters and other emergency responders.
When is open season 2024?
Open enrollment is when eligible federal employees can enroll in or change FEDVIP coverage.
This year, health care selections open on Nov. 13 and end on Dec. 11.
Compare FEDVIP plans
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.