By Irenaphoto /

OPM Makes It Easier for Feds to Shop for the Best Health Plan During Open Season

New plan comparison tool is more accessible and works better for employees overseas and on Medicare. 

Federal employees have a four-week window each year to make changes to their health insurance coverage, but only about 5%-6% of enrollees typically opt to do so, Office of Personnel Management officials lamented during a briefing earlier this fall to announce 2020 premiums. “We wish it was higher,” said Laurie Bodenheimer, OPM’s acting director of health care and insurance. 

This open season employees will have fewer excuses not to shop around for a better Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plan among the 279 options that will be available in 2020 (an increase of 14 over the 2019 offerings). OPM has revamped its online plan comparison tool, so that it is more accessible and works better for overseas and Medicare enrollees.

OPM is “extremely excited” about the improved tool, which allows enrollees to compare the features of up to three plans at one time, an official told Government Executive. The link is now available on OPM’s homepage. In terms of enhanced display, “as you’re scrolling through the different plans, the header bar is now frozen, so that people know where they are when they’re surfing,” the official said. The agency made some other technical changes to the website to improve visibility and organization of information. 

Overseas enrollees can now check a box so that they don’t have to enter their ZIP code to be able to search for plans. For Medicare enrollees, there is a new enhanced section that displays what they can expect to pay for services and benefits under Medicare parts A and B. 

Besides the plan comparison tool, OPM is working to reduce the number of pages of plan brochures, which are also available through the agency’s website. Based on feedback, OPM determined that with too much information people don’t always conduct thorough research to select the best plans for themselves and their families. This is an ongoing effort. Finally, for federal dental and vision coverage, OPM added links to the plans’ websites, provider directory and brochures. 

Federal employees will pay on average 5.6% more for their health insurance premiums in 2020, which is an uptick from the historically low increase this past year, but the exact increase will depend on the plan an employee chooses. The OPM official said the agency made an effort this year to make all the information available sooner, so people have ample time to research and compare plans. Open season will run from Nov. 11 through Dec. 9.