Today, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) briefed NTEU on the premium rate increases in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) for 2018 that covers approximately 8.3 million federal employees, retirees, and eligible family members. In plan year 2018, the FEHBP will consist of 262 health plans government wide. Overall, premium increases for FEHBP plans in 2018 will average 4%; 3.2 % for the government and 6.1% for enrollees. Rate increases for the 1.9 million participants in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program will be 1.26% for dental coverage, and vision benefit premiums, paid by approximately 1.3 million individuals, will decrease by 0.48%.
The upcoming Open Season, where federal employees can make changes to their health, dental, and vision insurance for 2018, and enroll in flexible spending accounts will be held November 13 – December 11, 2017. Individual plan brochures, with additional resources and OPM’s improved plan comparison tool, will also be made available on the OPM web site prior to the start of Open Season during the first week of November. I will let you know once this additional information becomes available.
According to OPM, premiums for enrollees in the largest FEHBP plan, Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS) Standard option will rise $7.17 per biweekly pay period for individuals who choose self-only coverage. Those enrolled in the BCBS Self Plus One coverage option will see an increase of $17.04 per biweekly pay period, while BCBS Standard Self and Family enrollees will pay $17.72 more per biweekly pay period.
Of note, OPM has recently provided updated guidance to agencies regarding FEHBP eligibility and enrollment for individuals serving as temporary, seasonal, and intermittent employees.
Additionally, OPM has also advised agencies to make sure employees relocating from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are aware of Qualifying Life Event eligibility that would enable them to enroll in different FEHBP health plans prior to the start of the upcoming Open Season.
OPM highlighted the fact that the overall FEHBP premium increase is in line with other employer-sponsored health plans which are projecting average increases from 4.3% to 6.5%, and that negotiations with FEHBP plans focused on keeping premium increases as low as possible for enrollees, while also ensuring the least amount of increases to out-of-pocket expenses, such as increased deductibles, copays, and other co-insurance.
NTEU appreciates the importance of quality health insurance to our members and their families. However, ever-rising premium increases remain challenging for our members, particularly against the backdrop of small pay raises and attacks on retirement benefits, which would further strain employee take-home pay and retiree income. NTEU will continue to press Congress to advance prescription drug reforms, and repeal of the so-called “Cadillac plan tax” as ways to further reduce FEHBP enrollee health care costs.