Yesterday, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) briefed NTEU on the premium rate increases in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) for 2017 that covers approximately 8.2 million federal employees, retirees, and eligible family members. In plan year 2017, the FEHBP will consist of 245 health plans government-wide. Overall, premium increases for FEHBP plans in 2017 will average 4.4%; 3.7% for the government and 6.2% for enrollees. Rate increases for the 1.7 million participants in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program will be 1.9% for dental coverage, and vision benefit premiums, paid by approximately 1.2 million individuals, will increase by 6.3%.
The upcoming Open Season, where federal employees can make changes to their health, dental, and vision insurance for 2017, and enroll in flexible spending accounts (FSAFEDS) will be held November 14 – December 12, 2016. OPM will post 2017 premium rates for all plans on its web site later today, and plan brochures, with additional resources and an upgraded plan comparison tool, will also be made available on the OPM web site prior to the start of Open Season.
According to OPM, premiums for enrollees in the largest FEHBP plan, Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS) Standard option will rise $5.81 per biweekly pay period for individuals who choose self-only coverage. Those enrolled in the relatively new BCBS Self Plus One coverage option will see an increase of $9.46 per biweekly pay period, while BCBS Standard family enrollees will pay $15.99 more per biweekly pay period. NTEU wants to be sure that all eligible enrollees (those with two enrollees total per family unit) are aware of the Self Plus One option now being offered under FEHBP, and that they plan to make use of the upcoming Open Season to compare Self Plus One versus Family coverage.
OPM stated that their negotiations with FEHBP plans focused on keeping premium increases as low as possible, while also ensuring the least amount of increases to out-of-pocket expenses, such as increased deductibles, copays, and other co-insurance. NTEU recognizes the essential role FEHBP benefits play for federal employees and retirees, as well as its ever-rising costs. The union stands ready to work with the new President and the next Congress on advancing prescription drug cost and supply chain reforms and full repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “Cadillac plan tax” as measurable ways to further reduce enrollee health care costs. Most importantly, these premium increases further call attention to the need to provide federal employees with decent pay raises, so that they can adequately provide for their families. NTEU will continue to advocate for better pay raises for the federal workforce.