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Employee Groups React to Health Insurance Open Season Announcement

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Office of Personnel Management announced Wednesday that this year’s Federal Employees Health Benefits Program open season period will run from Nov. 8 until Dec. 13, and that next year, federal workers will pay an average of 3.8% more toward health insurance premiums.

Non-postal federal workers enrolled in “self-only” plans will pay an average of $3.17 more in premiums per biweekly pay period, while employees in “self plus one” plans will pay $7.61 more per pay period on average. Feds who are enrolled in family coverage will pay an average of $10.09 more per pay period in 2022.

The average 3.8% cost increase for feds marks the second straight year in which the growth of FEHBP costs has slowed. In 2021, federal workers saw an average increase of 4.9% in employee premiums, while the price of insurance spiked 5.6% in 2020.

While the cost increase is still more than double the 1.5% increase federal employees saw in 2019, OPM noted that other large employers are handing down larger premium increases to their employees.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association applauded OPM for its efforts to keep cost increases to a minimum.

“In a time of ever-increasing health care costs, I commend OPM for its hard work in keeping the FEHB average premium increase below that of the private market,” said NARFE President Ken Thomas. “The portion of FEHB premiums paid by federal civil servants and retirees will increase by an average of 3.8%; many other health systems are seeing greater increases. While federal employees and retirees will continue to feel the pinch of rising health care costs, NARFE appreciates the diligence with which OPM staff negotiated rates to provide high-quality benefits at a reasonable price.”

The National Treasury Employees Union also acknowledged OPM’s efforts to keep costs down, but said the union would continue to encourage its members to shop around within the FEHBP to find an affordable plan that meets their needs.

“Clearly the administration did a better job holding down the employees’ share of premium costs in the FEHB program for 2022, and we commend that progress,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “But we will encourage our members to prepare for price increases and use the upcoming open enrollment season to evaluate all of their options to decide which plan is best for themselves and their families.”

OPM also reminded federal workers that if they are enrolled in flexible spending accounts, which allow enrollees to put aside money tax free for use on medical expenses, including copays, prescription drugs and other medical supplies, they must reenroll during open season to continue to make use of the program. There is an added benefit this year: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all unused FSA funds, which usually are only available for a single calendar year, will roll over into employees’ 2022 accounts.

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