Open season for three civilian benefits programs will be Nov. 12 through Dec. 10.
Those programs are the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program and the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program.
Federal Employees Health Benefits
In the FEHB program, premiums will increase an average of 3.4 percent higher than the 2012 premiums. There are several plans from which to choose for 2013, including high-deductible and consumer-driven health plans.
Employees should take advantage of this opportunity to review and update their health plans. Open season is the best time to review health care coverage, not only to make desired changes, but to ensure plans have not been altered or discontinued. Employees should also review plan premiums for 2013, since some may increase more than the 3.4 percent average.
For 2013 FEHB premium costs, open season comparison guides and individual plan brochures go to www.opm.gov/insure/openseason/index.asp.
Air Force-serviced civilian employees can make their FEHB open season enrollments or changes by one of two methods: Employee Benefits Information System or the Benefits and Entitlements Service Team phone system.
EBIS, a secure Web application, is located behind the Air Force Portal and the AFPC secure Web site. An advantage of making an election via EBIS is that employees can print a copy of Standard Form 2809, the Health Benefits Election Form, as soon as they complete the election.
Employees in the United States who want to use the BEST automated phone system can call 800-525-0102, press 2 for civilian employees, then 2 for BEST benefits and entitlements, and follow the prompts. Employees outside the U.S. should first dial the AT&T toll-free direct access number for the country they are in, then 800-525-0102. Direct access numbers can be found at www.usa.att.com/traveler/index.jsp. Hearing impaired employees should call the telecommunications device for the deaf line at 800-382-0893, or the local San Antonio number: 210-565-2276. Benefits counselors are available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program
FEDVIP provides supplemental dental and vision insurance coverage. It is group coverage on an enrollee-pay-all basis. Seven plans offer dental benefits, and three plans offer vision benefits, including regional, national and international coverage. The three enrollment categories available are self only, self plus one, and self and family. Coverage and benefits vary, but they generally include preventive-care services, oral and eye exams, orthodontia, and a variety of eye- and oral-care products and procedures.
FEDVIP and FEHB are entirely separate programs. Federal employees who are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program may enroll in FEDVIP, even if they do not enroll in FEHB. Eligibility is the key.
FEDVIP enrollment automatically continues from year-to-year, like FEHB enrollment. FEDVIP enrollment also continues when enrolled employees retire. There is no “five year rule” and employees cannot cancel FEDVIP coverage just because they retire. Cancellation must instead be based on a qualifying life event.
Federal employees who wish to enroll, change plans or cancel their enrollment in the FEDVIP program during this open season must do so by visiting the BENEFEDS Web site, www.benefeds.com, or by calling BENEFEDS toll-free at 877-888-3337 or the toll free teletype terminal number at 877-889-5680.
BENEFEDS will “turn off” open season enrollment functions at midnight Eastern time Dec. 10.
The enrollment process involves two parts. First, enrollees must create a BENEFEDS.com account by providing demographic and employment information. When this one-time step is complete, eligible employees can compare plans and enroll.
The effective date of FEDVIP coverage for the 2013 plan year is Jan. 1. Premium deductions will begin for Air Force-serviced employees with the pay period beginning Jan. 13, and will be reflected in their Leave and Earnings Statement for that pay period. Premiums will be deducted on a pre-tax (premium conversion) basis. Enrollees pay the full premium for dental and vision coverage, with no government contribution.
FEDVIP premium costs and individual plan brochures are available on the OPM open season Web page.
Federal Flexible Spending Account
During this open season, eligible employees may enroll in the FSAFEDS program for calendar year 2013. The three types of FSA accounts are the Health Care FSA, the Limited Expense Health Care FSA, and the Dependent Care FSA. The FSAFEDS program allows federal employees to set aside pre-tax money for a wide range of medical and dependent care expenses should they incur eligible expenses and require reimbursement.
Employees who are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program may participate in the FSAFEDS program, even if they are not currently enrolled. Employees who enroll in one of the high deductible health plans and are eligible for a health savings account may not have a regular Health Care FSA account, but they may enroll in the LEX Health Care FSA. All employees with qualified dependents may enroll in a Dependent Care FSA, except temporary employees with no fixed work schedule whose tour of duty is six months or less.
In 2013, in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the maximum amount an employee may defer on a pre-tax basis for a health care flexible spending account may not exceed $2,500 per plan year. This change, however, does not affect the maximum contributions for a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account which will remain $5,000 for benefit year 2013.
The FSAFEDS program also has a 2.5-month grace period. If the 2013 account is not exhausted by Dec. 31, 2013, eligible expenses incurred Jan. 1 through March 15, 2014, will be applied to the remaining 2013 balance.
Enrollments are made via the FSAFEDS Web site at https://www.fsafeds.com, or by calling toll-free 877-372-3337 or TTY 800-952-0450. Enrollment does not carry over automatically from year to year. Employees must submit a new enrollment for each year they wish to participate.
Detailed information on the FSA program is available on the FSAFEDS Web site, including an online calculator that will help estimate the FSA contribution and potential annual tax savings.
For more information on any of these programs or other civilian employee benefits and entitlements, visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil, select the Civilian tab, and then select Benefits and Entitlements from the dropdown menu.