New Vision and Dental Insurance Options for Feds, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday announced that it had reached terms with insurance carriers to provide vision and dental benefits to federal employees through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program and beginning next year, there will be more options for feds.

Starting next year, the number of dental insurers available through FEDVIP will increase from 10 to 12, while the number of vision carriers will grow from four to five. The insurers' contracts will last seven years. 

The national dental carriers available beginning in 2021 will be Aetna Dental PPO, Delta Dental PPO, Blue Cross Blue Shield FEP Blue Dental, Government Employees Health Association Dental PPO, MetLife Dental PPO, United Concordia PPO and newcomer UnitedHealthcare Dental PPO. Regional carriers will include newcomers Dominion Dental EPO and HealthPartners, in addition to returning carriers Emblem Health, Humana EPO/PPO and Triple S Salud.

Vision insurance carriers will be Aetna Vision, Blue Cross Blue Shield FEP Vision, UnitedHealthcare Vision, VSP and newcomer MetLife Vision.

In a statement, OPM touted a competitive application process that it said will improve service both for federal workers and taxpayers.

“The competitive application process allowed OPM to strengthen the FEDVIP program through increased focus on wellness and education,” the agency stated. “OPM improved quality assurance; financial reporting processes; and enhanced fraud, waste and abuse requirements.”

Open season for federal employees will run from Nov. 9 until Dec. 14.

OPM has kept busy in recent days, issuing regulations on paid parental leave and restoring annual leave that feds would otherwise have forfeited as a result of their work on coronavirus response efforts.

OPM confirmed in an interim final rule published in the Federal Register last week that federal employees will be entitled to 12 weeks of leave following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, provided that child is born or placed on Oct. 1, 2020, or later.

Federal employees will have one year to use the 12 weeks of leave, at which point any unused leave would be forfeited. They may use the leave nonconsecutively, but once employees return from their first stint of parental leave, they are obligated to work for 12 weeks, although agencies may waive that requirement if the employees are unable to return due to the continuation, recurrence or onset of a serious health condition of the parent or child, provided the condition is related to the birth or placement of the child.

Additionally, since paid parental leave technically functions as a replacement for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if employees use part of their FMLA leave allowance, the amount of paid parental leave available will decrease by that amount.

The federal government’s HR agency also issued regulations declaring that the coronavirus pandemic would be deemed an exigency of the public business so that essential employees unable to take annual leave do not forfeit leave as a result of being over the cap of leave that may be carried over from one year to the next.

Agencies will be responsible for identifying which employees are essential to COVID-19 response efforts and thereby eligible to have leave restored, and they must inform those employees of their status. Eligible employees will have at least two years from the end of the coronavirus national emergency to use their excess leave, and those with more than 416 hours of excess leave will have longer.

The regulations also provide a template by which the OPM director and agency heads can more easily restore cancelled leave during future national emergencies, rather than OPM filing new regulations for each major emergency as it has in years past.