OPM Announces Lowest Federal Employee Health Care Premium Increase in Two Decades

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The Office of Personnel Management announced Wednesday that federal employees will see the cost of their health insurance increase by 1.5 percent in 2019, the smallest hike in more than 20 years.

Enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program with coverage only for themselves will on average pay an additional $1.53 each bi-weekly pay period next year. Those on full family plans will pay $2.55 more per pay period, while people in self-plus-one coverage will pay an additional $3.06.

The average increase in the government’s contribution to FEHBP premiums in 2019 will be 1.2 percent. OPM contributes roughly 72 percent toward premiums, which is based on a weighted average of the plans that enrollees choose.

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The overall increase in premiums, including both employee and government contributions, will be 1.3 percent next year. That marks the slowest growth in health care costs since 1996, and the smallest increase in enrollees’ share since 1995, said Alan Spielman, director of health care and insurance at OPM.

“We still encourage enrollees to shop around for coverage and evaluate alternatives,” Spielman said in a call with reporters. “Even if you are only seeing a modest increase [in your current plan premiums] or a decrease, you might be able to find better value if you evaluate your needs and the choices available.”

Spielman said there could be a number of factors driving down price increases, including a regulatory change that allows all insurers to provide up to three plans of any type.

“There are a number of dynamics at play here,” he said. “Certainly, OPM and all of the carriers have been focused on quality improvement and achieving more affordable programs here . . . and there are a number of trends along those lines. They also include things like renegotiating provider contracts, and introducing programs like pharmacy management and chronic care management.”

Spielman said that next year, there is a moratorium on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurer provider fees.

Exact changes to premiums will vary based on the plans enrollees choose, and some will even decrease. For instance, for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Standard Option—the most popular plan—self-only enrollees will pay $0.93 less per pay period, enrollees in family coverage will pay $3.74 less per pay period, and self-plus-one enrollees will pay $1.27 less each pay period.

For the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, where there is no government contribution, dental plan premiums will increase 1.2 percent on average in 2019, while vision plans will drop in price by 2.8 percent. This marks the first year that uniformed service retirees and their families can enroll in FEDVIP dental plans—the equivalent TRICARE plan will stop at the end of 2018—and the first year that active duty service members’ families can enroll in vision plans.

Open season for selecting or changing plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will run from Nov. 12 until Dec. 10.

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