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OPM issues self-plus-one health insurance information for federal employees

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The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a Benefits Administration Letter dated March 24, 2014 entitled “Self Plus One Enrollment.” The purpose of the letter is to announce “the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will be implementing a new enrollment type, Self Plus One, under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. This letter also outlines agency responsibilities for the implementation of the Self Plus One enrollment type.”

The letter is available on FedSmith.com. It was not yet available on the OPM website at the time it was released to human resources offices within the federal government.

The purpose of the letter is to announce a self-plus-one option under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB). Under the current program, federal employees are only given the option of a family program in order to provide health insurance coverage to a married couple. The result is that a family of five pays the same for the same health insurance policy as a family of two people.

Under the Congressional budget agreement reached in December 2013 and announced by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), OPM would be allowed to create a “self-plus-one option” in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. That option survived in Congress and OPM is now taking steps to implement the program.

OPM normally issues a "call letter" in April to insurance companies that offer insurance programs under the federal health insurance program. This letter outlines what insurance policies for the next calendar year are expected to cover.

According to the Benefits Administration Letter just released by OPM, the self-plus-one option will not be available until January 2016. Federal employees will have a chance to enroll in this program during the annual open season. Since the new enrollment option will not start until January 2016, the first opportunity to enroll in the self-plus-one option will be in November 2015.

Presumably, the agency is waiting until 2016 to make the change effective because the call letter is about to go out for the 2015 health benefits program and it would be too late to make this change and begin implementation prior to that time. With the massive problems and delays and political problems resulting from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), OPM apparently wanted to avoid adding to the problems of health care implementation and decided to take its time and make this latest change as part of the normal process rather than trying to speed it up and encounter unexpected problems.

There is no way of determining at this time what the premiums will be with the self-plus-one option under the FEHB. Those employees and retirees what are looking forward to this new option are hoping for a significant reduction in their cost versus the cost of insuring an entire family. Whether that reduction occurs remains to be seen.

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