WASHINGTON — Army civilians have until Dec. 9 to decide whether or not to continue their Federal Employees Health Benefits plan or switch providers.
Every year, the so-called open-season enrollment period is from the second Monday in November to the second Monday in December, according to Peg Schultz, director, Army Benefits Center – Civilian.
It would be prudent for Army civilians to check their plans and compare them with other plans, Schultz advised. Go to https://www.abc.army.mil/.
That website has all the information needed to compare plans and to make changes with ease using side-by-side comparison charts. She added that the website is reliable and robust.
Although there’s a toll-free number,1.877.276.9287, to call if users experience problems with the site or have additional questions, typically more than 95 percent experience no problems and successfully process their transactions online, she said.
In fact, she said 340,000 people use the site for their health-care needs.
Another advantage the Army Benefits Center website has, she pointed out, is that it interfaces directly with the Office of Personnel Management’s health-care website so users can get everything they need at Army Benefits Center without roaming through the Internet.
Army civilians should see how their plans have changed and what their own changing needs might be, she said, especially since premiums fluctuate.
The Office of Personnel Management announced that the average premiums for 8.2 million people covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits program will increase by 3.7 percent in 2014.
Last year the average increase was 3.4 percent. Dental and vision care were not included in those figures for this year and 2014.
Average dental premiums for federal employees will increase less than 1 percent in 2014 and vision will decrease by 1.3 percent in 2014, according to OPM.
Not every Army civilian will want or need to use the open-season enrollment, Schultz acknowledged.
For example, a number of Army civilians who are retired military choose to keep their Tricare benefits.
Army civilians can make changes to their health-care plans outside of open-enrollement season if they have “qualifying life event” changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child and so on, she said.
The reason there’s such a narrow window on open-enrollment season each year is because some of the dollars that go into helping Army civilians with health care are pre-taxed, so the timeframe for enrollment was mandated by the Internal Revenue Service’s rules.
The Army Benefits Center site also has an OPM link to the Affordable Health Care site that might cover children of Army civilians who are now too old to be on their plans and who don’t have a health insurance or want to shop around.
Besides health care, Schultz pointed out that the Army Benefits Center and its website handles the Thrift Savings Plan and has information on flexible spending, retirement, Social Security and many other benefits.