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Temp Feds Will Have Access to Health Care Coverage Starting in January

OPM publishes final rule expanding the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The new policy offering temporary and seasonal federal workers access to health insurance goes into effect on Nov. 17.

The Office of Personnel Management on Friday issued the final rule on regulations that expand the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to previously ineligible workers. Employees who are scheduled to work at least 130 hours in a calendar month and work at least 90 days 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 issued the proposed rule on the change in July, and received 100 comments during the comment period from individuals, agencies and federal employee unions.

“Many members of the public, federal employees, and their families expressed appreciation for the coverage changes,” said the notice in the Federal Register. “This rule would create a more even playing field for similarly situated employees.”

OPM said that some agencies expressed concern over the cost of adding more employees to the health insurance rolls, saying they might have to alter hiring and workforce plans to accommodate the change. OPM acknowledged that agencies will have to budget to meet the requirements under the new policy, but despite those challenges, OPM said it “continues to believe that this coverage change is consistent with the federal government's role as a model employer.”

OPM also emphasized that agencies need to move quickly to implement the change.

“Employing offices must promptly determine eligibility of new and current employees and upon determining eligibility, promptly offer employees an opportunity to enroll in the FEHB program so that coverage becomes effective no later than January 2015,” the final rule stated.

OPM estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of the civilian federal workforce is currently ineligible for FEHBP, and could therefore benefit from this change.

In 2012, President Obama directed OPM to expand 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, OPM said the expansion will cost the federal government between $21 million and $42 million annually--below $100 million, the threshold of economic significance.

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