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A Second Chance to Change Health Plans, TSP News and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

Not happy with the health plan you chose during open season? You will have a second chance starting next week to modify your benefits.

The Office of Personnel Management is hosting a “limited enrollment period” from Feb. 1 to Feb. 29 for Federal Employees Health Benefits Program participants who decide they want to switch to this year’s new self-plus-one offering. The self-plus-one option in most cases is cheaper than family coverage, though OPM has encouraged enrollees to double check that this is true for their particular plan.

The human resources agency emphasized in an announcement Wednesday that the limited enrollment period is not another open season. It only applies to active federal employees who want to move from a family plan into a self-plus-one plan.

“A record number of FEHB enrollees made enrollment changes during the recent open season, but we know there are still some enrollees in self and family who can benefit from changing their enrollment to self-plus-one,” said John O’Brien, director of healthcare and insurance at OPM.

For those who decide to make the switch, it will take effect on the first day of the first pay period after the change was requested, OPM said. The agency asked federal employees to make enrollment changes electronically and speak with their HR representatives if they run into trouble. Click here for more information.

Much of the other pay and benefits news during the past week has revolved around the Thrift Savings Plan. TSP officials held a Monday meeting with the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board via phone, despite the snow that had shuttered offices in the Washington, D.C., region. During the meeting, officials noted that hardship withdrawals were down in 2015, compared to the previous year. TSP participants took out more in loans in 2015 than in 2014, however: $4 billion compared to $2.9 billion (though the number of transactions remained roughly the same). 

TSP officials have been engaged in online and social media outreach to educate enrollees about the risks of withdrawing money and taking loans from their nest egg.

The White House also this week highlighted a TSP plan to ease the process of rolling over a private sector 401(k) into the government’s retirement savings program. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board will issue a request for proposals in June seeking a provider to initiate the reform, the White House noted as part of a broader initiative to "build a 21st century retirement system.”

Stay tuned for more pay and benefits news from the White House in a few weeks. President Obama plans to release his fiscal 2017 budget request on Feb. 9. That plan typically includes proposed pay raises for civilian employees and the military, as well as other benefits-related proposals.  

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