Thousands of previously ineligible federal employees will soon have access to the government-sponsored health care package, the Office of Personnel Management announced Tuesday.
Currently, temporary, intermittent and seasonal employees who work for fewer than six months each year are not eligible to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. OPM issued a proposed rule, however, to grant many of those workers access to the insurance benefit.
Pending a final regulation, employees who are scheduled to work at least 130 hours in a calendar month will be FEHBP-eligible by January 2015. Some temporary employees -- those with more than one year of service -- are currently able to participate in the health care program, but do not qualify for a government contribution. Under the new rule, all temporary, seasonal and intermittent employees working enough hours will receive a contribution from their employing agency.
OPM estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of the civilian federal workforce is currently ineligible for FEHBP, and could therefore benefit from this change.
“The change in eligibility for coverage set forth in this proposed regulation is intended to ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that full-time employees [as defined by current federal statute] are eligible to enroll in FEHB,” OPM wrote in the rule.
In 2012, under direction from President Obama, OPM expanded FEHBP coverage to part-time firefighters and other emergency response personnel. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of newly eligible employees actually enrolled in the benefit, OPM said. Using that baseline, the humans resources agency said the expansion will cost the federal government between $21 million and $42 million annually.
Once the rule is finalized, the part-time employees will have 60 days upon receiving notice from their employer to enroll. OPM is accepting public comments on its proposed rule for the next 30 days.