By Valeri Potapova /

Wage System Tweaks, and a Health Insurance Offering That's Been Missing for 30 Years

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday proposed changing the boundaries of several locality areas for the system that determines the wages of federal blue-collar and hourly employees.

In a proposed rule posted to the Federal Register, OPM suggested making three changes to wage areas under the Federal Wage System, “based on recent reviews of Metropolitan Statistical Area boundaries.”

Under the new rule, Madison County, Va., would move from the Hagerstown-Martinsburg-Chambersburg, Md., wage area to the Washington, D.C., wage area, which also includes parts of Northern Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Additionally, Ottawa County, Ohio, would move from the Cleveland wage area to the Detroit wage area, affecting 38 Federal Wage System workers.

In Mississippi, Covington County would shift from the Jackson, Miss., wage area to the Meridian wage area, although that change would not affect any current federal employees.

Comments are open on these proposals from now until Sept. 13. The changes will be effective on the first day of the first full pay period that begins at least 30 days after final regulations are published.

A non-profit insurance provider announced last week that it has been selected to offer a new nationwide health plan to Federal Employees Health Benefits Program participants beginning next year, fulfilling a contract that has sat vacant for decades.

OPM has contracted with the Government Employees Health Association to provide an indemnity benefit plan to federal workers, beginning in 2020.

More commonly referred to as “fee-for-service” plans, indemnity benefit plans allow participants to visit the vast majority of doctors and hospitals regardless of network. The insurance provider agrees to pay a set portion of the patient’s total charges.

“GEHA will fill a slot that has been vacant for 30 years in the FEHB Program and increase the availability of nationwide health plan offerings for federal employees and annuitants,” said Edward DeHarde, OPM assistant director of federal employee insurance operations, in a statement. “We look forward to working with GEHA to provide additional quality, affordable options from which FEHBP members can choose.”