OPM rule protects feds’ health benefits during shutdowns

The Office of Personnel Management wants to be sure feds keep their health benefits in the event of a government shutdown and has proposed designating features of employee insurance programs as “emergency services.”

The Office of Personnel Management wants to be sure feds keep their health benefits in the event of another government shutdown and has proposed designating features of employee insurance programs as “emergency services.”

In a notice of proposed rulemaking, OPM said it is implementing Section 1110 of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which provides that employees furloughed because of an appropriations lapse would be considered to be in “pay status” when it comes to enrolling or changing enrollment in health benefits program.

Additionally, certain Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program and Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) features would be designated as emergency services under the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits most agencies from conducting operations without funding, except in certain emergencies, and so permit employees in pay status for purposes of making enrollment changes.  

Coverage for other benefits, such as the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) and the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP), will also be continued for furloughed enrollees or those working without pay. The proposed rule also stipulates that coverage may not be cancelled as a result of nonpayment of premiums or other charges caused by an appropriations lapse.

When appropriations are restored, the proposed rule calls for FEDVIP and FLTCIP premiums to be paid from back pay or paid back from another source for FLTCIP enrollees who elected to make payments directly to the carrier.

Comments are due Aug. 19.

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