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Open Season: Final days for choosing your 2017 health plan

While most federal employees likely already have reviewed their benefits and made necessary adjustments, those who have not—and perhaps even those who have—may want to look through the following summary of some of the things they should keep in mind in making their decisions, based on OPM recommendations.

By Edward A. Zurndorfer

While most federal employees likely already have reviewed their benefits and made necessary adjustments, those who have not—and perhaps even those who have—may want to look through the following summary of some of the things they should keep in mind in making their decisions, based on OPM recommendations. If you intend to keep the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) plan from last year, you should at a minimum make sure that plan is not leaving the FEHB program in 2017—and review the plan you intend to have in the coming year, examining it for changes in covered services or supplies, premium costs, co-insurance and co-pays.

This year’s Federal Employees Health Benefits open season, which runs from Nov. 14 through Dec. 12, is now in its final days.

While most federal employees likely already have reviewed their benefits and made any necessary adjustments, those who have not—and perhaps even those who have—may want to look through the following quick summary of some of the things they should keep in mind in making their decisions, based on recommendations from the Office of Personnel Management.

Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)

• If you intend to keep the plan from last year, then you should at a minimum make sure that plan is not leaving the FEHB program in 2017.

• Review the health plan you intend to have in the coming year, examining it for changes in covered services or supplies, premium costs, co-insurance and co-pays. Also, if you are enrolled in a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan, check the plan brochure to make sure that all of your doctors (including specialists) and hospitals will continue to participate in the PPO network during the 2017 plan year.

• Based on your experience in past years, you might also want to examine the other types of health plans—such as fee-for-service plans, health maintenance organization plans, high deductible health plans, and consumer driven health plans—to make sure you have the right plan for your own situation.

• You may also want to consider enrolling in an FSAFEDS account to reimburse you for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Information about the FSAFEDS program may be obtained at www.fsafeds.com.
A good starting place for reviewing and comparing health insurance plans is located online at https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/open-season.

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)

FEDVIP is offered separately from FEHB health insurance. FEDVIP premiums are paid entirely by the subscriber; the government does not contribute anything to the FEDVIP premium cost.

• In deciding whether to carry FEDVIP dental or vision coverage, you may want to tally up your predictable dental and vision expenses to see if they are significant enough to warrant the annual cost of the premiums.

• Also check your regular FEHB plan to see if it covers any of those expenses—some FEHB plans do. In that case, FEDVIP would be the secondary payer—another factor in weighing your decision.

• If you are currently enrolled in a FEDVIP dental and/or vision plan and intend to keep it, it’s always a good idea to check for changes in coverage and premiums, and to compare the plan to the other available dental and vision plans.

• Rather than buying a separate dental and/or vision insurance plan, you may also want to consider enrolling in an FSAFEDS account to reimburse you for out-of-pocket vision and dental costs.

Find more information and enrollment forms at www.benefeds.com.

Federal Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)

You can use pre-tax money that is deducted from your gross pay and put into a Health Care FSA account to pay for eligible out-of-pocket expenses (such as co-pay amounts) that are not covered by FEHB, FEDVIP or other insurance for you, your spouse and dependents. You also can set aside pre-tax money from your gross pay and put it into a dependent care FSA to pay for child and dependent care.

• In determining how much to put aside, you should examine the list of eligible expenses on the FSAFEDS Web site at www.fsafeds.com, and then estimate your annual health, vision and dental care out-of-pocket expenses for the coming year.

• Also remember to check your insurance coverage to see if co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses will change in the coming year, requiring you to adjust your FSA contribution amount.

• Use the same review process in making decisions for a Dependent Care FSA.

More information is at www.fsafeds.com.

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