OPM issues regulations expanding life insurance access

The Office of Personnel Management has issued regulations that would make obtaining life insurance coverage easier for federal employees sent overseas to support military operations or recalled into active military service.

In a Dec. 31 notice published in the Federal Register, OPM outlined plans to expand employees' access to the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program under certain situations and to make several small technical changes to the program.

"Obviously, it is challenging for federal workers overseas to achieve affordable life insurance," said Matt Biggs, legislative director of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees. "So, to the extent that this OPM policy can give workers a viable and affordable life insurance option, the government deserves credit for attempting to provide this benefit."

OPM's changes implement legislative expansions to the program. One revision would allow Defense Department employees defined as emergency essential workers, civilian employees who can be deployed overseas if necessary in a conflict, and federal employees from other agencies sent abroad to support the military in an active or potential conflict to enroll in FEGLI through three of the program's offerings. Those insurance options are Basic, which is an employee's annual salary rounded up to the nearest $1,000, plus $2,000; Standard, which provides for a $100,000 payment; and Additional insurance, which provides payments in a multiple of an employee's annual salary. The fiscal 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, which went into effect in October 2008, required those changes but OPM had not implemented them before this regulation.

The second change would allow federal employees recalled into active military duty because they are members of reserve or National Guard units to stay enrolled in FEGLI for two years. Typically, members of the military are covered by the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance rather than FEGLI. Under the new regulations, the government would pay the full cost of FEGLI coverage for the first year of a federal employee's continued enrollment, but for the second year, the employee would be responsible for the full cost of the insurance. There would be no employer contribution toward insurance payments under FEGLI for the second year. That change was authorized by the fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization Act.

OPM's proposed regulations also include a number of technical corrections to FEGLI. Among them is a change to the types of insurance that employees can choose when family circumstances are altered due to marriage, divorce, the death of a spouse, or the birth or adoption of a child. Currently, employees who want to change their life insurance coverage because of those circumstances must be enrolled in the program's Basic offering already, and then must choose between the Additional and Family coverage options. The new regulation would remove all restrictions to the enrollment changes that employees can make when their family circumstances change, including allowing them to enroll in Basic insurance, or to choose the Standard option for coverage.

OPM is accepting comments on the regulations until March 1.

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