RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
The Office of Personnel Management has announced an open season will start Monday and run through Dec. 10 for three civilian benefit programs.
The three programs are the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, and the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program.
Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
FEHB premiums for 2008 will rise an average of 2 percent for the second consecutive year. There are 283 plan choices in 2008, one less than in 2007; 13 plans dropped out and 12 new plans are joining. The number of high deductible health plans is increasing to 32, up from 29 in 2007.
Officials recommend employees review and update their health plans during the open season.
"Open season is the best time for employees to review their health care coverage, not only to make desired changes, but to ensure their plan hasn't been altered or discontinued," said Janet Thomas, Air Force Personnel Center Benefits and Entitlements Service Team, "Employees should also review the plan premiums for 2008."
FEHB premium costs for 2008 are already available for view on the OPM web page at http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/08rates/. Federal Benefits Open Season comparison guides and individual plan brochures are available now.
Air Force-serviced civilian employees will make their FEHB open season enrollments or changes by one of two methods: Employee Benefits Information System or BEST phone system.
-- EBIS, a secure Web application, is located behind the Air Force Portal at https://www.my.af.mil and the AFPC Secure Web site, https://wwa.afpc.randolph.af.mil/afpcsecure. An advantage of making an election via EBIS is employees can print a copy of Standard Form 2809, the health benefits election form, as soon as they complete the election.
-- The BEST automated phone system number is (800) 616-3775 for employees in the United States; press 2 for Air Force-serviced civilian, then 2 for BEST benefits and entitlements, and follow the prompts. Overseas employees will first dial the toll-free direct access number for the country they are in, then (800) 616-3775. Direct access numbers can be found at www.business.att.com/bt/dial_guide.jsp. Hearing impaired employees may call (800) 382-0893, or commercial 565-2276 within San Antonio, Texas. Benefits counselors are available weekdays, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program
FEDVIP provides supplemental dental and vision insurance coverage. FEDVIP is group coverage on an enrollee pay all basis. Seven plans offer dental benefits, and three plans offer vision benefits, including regional, national, and international coverage. Three enrollment categories are available: self only, self plus one, and self and family.
Coverage and benefits vary, but generally include preventive-care services, oral and eye exams, orthodontia, and a variety of eye- and oral-care products and procedures.
"It's important to understand that FEDVIP and FEHB are entirely separate programs," said Ms. Thomas.
Federal employees eligible to enroll in the FEHB program may also enroll in FEDVIP. It does not matter if they enroll in FEHB. Eligibility is the key, according to Ms. Thomas.
FEDVIP enrollment automatically continues from year to year like FEHB enrollment. FEDVIP enrollment also continues when enrolled employees retire.
Federal employees who wish to enroll, change plans, or cancel their enrollment in the FEDVIP program during this open season must do so by visiting the BENEFEDS Web site at www.BENEFEDS.com or by calling BENEFEDS toll-free at (877) 888-3337 or (877) 889-5680. BENEFEDS will not accept paper enrollment forms this year.
BENEFEDS will "turn on" all enrollment functions by 5 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday and "turn off" Open Season enrollment functions at 12 a.m. Eastern Time on Dec. 11.
Enrolling involves two steps. First, employees must create a BENEFEDS.com account by providing demographic and employment information. When this one-time step is complete, eligible employees can compare plans and enroll.
The effective date of FEDVIP coverage for the 2008 plan year is Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008. Premium deductions will begin for Air Force-serviced employees with the pay period beginning Jan. 6 and will be reflected in their Jan. 25 Leave and Earnings Statement. Premiums will be deducted on a pre-tax, premium conversion, basis for employees. Enrollees pay the full premium for dental and vision coverage, with no government contribution.
FEDVIP premium costs for 2008 are already available on the OPM FEDVIP Web site at www.opm.gov/insure/dentalvision/index.asp. Individual FEDVIP plan brochures are available now.
Federal Flexible Spending Account
During this open season, eligible employees may enroll in the FSAFEDS program for calendar year 2008. There are three types of FSA accounts: the Health Care FSA, the Limited Expense Health Care FSA, and the Dependent Care FSA. The FSAFEDS program allows federal employees to set aside pre-tax money for a wide range of medical and dependent care expenses. The money is set aside before salary is taxed and is exempt from federal income taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, and from most state and local taxes.
Employees who are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program may participate in the FSA program, even if they are not currently enrolled. Employees who enroll in one of the high deductible health plans and are eligible for a health savings account may not have a regular Health Care FSA account, but they may enroll in the LEX Health Care FSA. All employees with qualified dependents may enroll in a Dependent Care FSA, except temporary employees with no fixed work schedule whose tour of duty is six months or less.
There are no benefit changes in FSAFEDS for 2008. The maximum annual election is $5,000 for the Health Care FSA and for the LEX Health Care FSA. The Dependent Care FSA annual maximum is $5,000 per household or $2,500 if married and filing separate tax returns. The minimum annual amount for each type of FSA account is $250.
The FSA program also has a 2.5-month grace period. If the 2008 account is not exhausted by Dec. 31, 2008, eligible expenses incurred Jan. 1 through March 15, 2009, will be applied to the remaining 2008 balance.
FSA enrollments are made via the FSAFEDS Web site (www.fsafeds.com) or by calling toll-free (877) 372-3337 or TTY (800) 952-0450. Enrollment does not carry over automatically from year to year - employees must submit a new enrollment for each year they wish to participate.
Detailed information on the FSA program is available on the FSAFEDS Web site, including an online calculator that will help estimate the FSA contribution and potential annual tax savings.
For more information on any of these programs or other civilian employee benefits and entitlements, visit the BEST Web site at http://ask.afpc.randolph.af.mil; click on Civilian Employees, then on Benefits and Entitlements. (AFPCNS)