Retirees and the FEHB Program Open Season
The 2005 Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) open season started Monday, November 8, and will extend through December 31. Retirees will soon receive 2005 FEHB enrollment information in the annual letter from the State Department's Office of Retirement. Active-duty employees and retirees can find additional information and links at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Web site at www.opm.gov/insure and on the AFSA Web site at www.afsa.org/rtvppage.cfm.
If you are satisfied with your current coverage and wish to continue it through 2005, and your plan remains in the FEHB program, there is nothing that you need to do to continue coverage. If, however, you are enrolled in a plan that is withdrawing from the FEHB program or reducing its service area, you must select another health plan by filing a completed Standard Form (SF) 2809-1 and submitting it to the Office of Retirement by December 31. The Office of Retirement is sending an SF 2800-1 form to all annuitants enrolled in plans that have withdrawn. This form can also be downloaded at www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SF2809-1.pdf.
If a retiree is enrolled in a plan that has withdrawn and he/she fails to enroll in another FEHB plan during open season, he/she will effectively cancel his/her coverage and be ineligible to enroll again.
The Office of Retirement does not distribute open season guides to Foreign Service annuitants. Retirees can request plan guides and brochures from the OPM Web site at www.opm.gov/insure/health/brochures/index.asp or read the OPM 2005 Guide to Employees Health Benefits Plans for Federal Retirees and Their Survivors (RI 70-9 ) at www.opm.gov/insure/05/guides/70-09/. This guide provides information on changes in premiums and a chart that compares the benefits of FEHB plans. For those annuitants living overseas, you can go to www.opm.gov/insure/05/html/overseas.asp for information about overseas coverage.
If you do not have a computer, you may purchase a printed guide to health plans, published by the Washington Consumers Checkbook magazine, by telephone at 1 (800) 213-7283 or at www.guidetohealthplans.org.
If you decide to change your enrollment, you may request specific brochures and an SF 2809-1 form from the Office of Retirement at:
Department of State
HR/RET, however, does not have brochures for all prepaid plans (Comprehensive Medical Plans or Health Maintenance Organizations). These organizations may be contacted by telephone at the numbers listed on the OPM Web site.
Annuitants who wish to change coverage must return a completed Health Benefits Registration Form (SF 2809-1) to HR/RET by December 31.
In its letter HR/RET also said that TRICARE-eligible FEHB program annuitants and former spouses may suspend their FEHB coverage and use their TRICARE coverage without prejudicing their ability to return later to FEHB coverage during a future open season. See www.opm.gov/insure/health/eligibility/tricare.asp.
HR/RET also informed annuitants that certain individuals, such as children of enrollees who reach age 22 or former spouses who are not eligible for coverage, may temporarily continue FEHB coverage. These children and spouses must elect coverage within 60 days of the event causing loss of coverage.
Please visit out retiree Web page for more FEHB information.
Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements
The Federal Employment Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) is offering enrollees two new options, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs).
HSAs are available only to active duty employees. An HSA is a high deductible, low premium health insurance plan, in which an employee makes tax-deductible contributions to an interest-bearing account. The health plan deposits a monthly "premium pass through" into the account. Withdrawals are tax free if they are used to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses. The money in the account can be transferred when an enrollee changes jobs, and at the end of the year unused funds and interest can be rolled over to the next year.
Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) are available to retired federal employees enrolled in Medicare. An HAS is a high deductible health plan in which an enrollee accumulates credits, which are essentially government vouchers that can be used pay out of pocket expenses for qualified medical expenses, the plan deductible, and Medicare premiums. The credit amount received monthly by a retiree is equivalent to the retiree's contribution or premium pass through. The credits are tax free for medical withdrawals, and unused credits will roll over from year to year. However, HRA credits are not transferable; if a retiree leaves federal employment or switches health insurance plans, all credits accrued will be forfeited. Another difference between the two options is that HSA credits do not accrue interest. Also see http://www.opm.gov/hsa/.