On September 25, 2008, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced premium increases for enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) for 2009. According to OPM, the average cost of premiums for FEHBP will rise by 7 percent in 2009. The average share of the premium paid by federal employees and retirees will increase by 7.9 percent. Like last year, OPM tapped into FEHBP’s reserve funds and used 3.1 percent of the reserve fund to keep premium increases from reaching double digits.
NTEU regrets that OPM did not do a better job leveraging the size of the FEHBP to get a better deal for enrollees. Enrollees in some plans, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, will realize higher increases in their premiums. For example, an enrollee in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard family plan will see his/her biweekly premium go up from $145.14 to $164.58 every pay period. The monthly enrollee premium will rise from $314.47 to $356.59, or about 13.4 percent.
It cannot be overemphasized that federal employees and retirees need to closely examine their current coverage and consider any needed changes during the upcoming Federal Benefits Open Season which runs from November 10, 2008 through December 8, 2008. There are six health plans that will terminate and two new ones will be added for a total of 269 participating plans in FEHBP. These include 14 fee for service (FFS) plans and 224 Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) as well as others. Federal employees should examine their own and their family’s expected health needs early to determine the best health insurance plan.