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OPM to Propose Expanding Dental and Vision Benefits to More Federal Workers

In a new proposed rule, OPM would extend eligibility to temporary and part-time workers, as well as federal firefighters and other “intermittent” first responders.

The Office of Personnel Management is set to propose new rules this week that would grant around 86,000 federal employees access to the federal government’s dental and vision insurance program.

A proposed rule slated for publication Tuesday in the Federal Register would extend eligibility to enroll in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program to temporary and part-time federal employees who work at least 130 hours per month for 90 or more days. Additionally, it would extend FEDVIP eligibility to temporary and intermittent federal firefighters and other first responders, whose shifts often do not meet the 130-hour per month for at least 90 days threshold.

The rule also would apply to temporary and part-time employees of the U.S. Postal Service who likewise work at least 130 hours a month for at least 90 days.

Temporary and seasonal federal workers have had access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program since 2015, while federal firefighters and other first responders were granted access to FEHBP in 2012.

OPM said in its proposed rule how these employees should be given the opportunity to enroll in FEDVIP, as well as the potential impact their joining will have on the overall program.

“OPM estimates that as of June 2021 there are approximately 86,000 federal employees in the impacted categories that are eligible for FEHB that would also be eligible for FEDVIP under this proposed rule,” the agency wrote. “However, using FEHBP eligibility as a proxy for FEDVIP eligibility is limited since OPM cannot estimate the uptake of the eligible population to enroll in FEDVIP. Since OPM does not have extensive data on and cannot estimate the potential uptake of newly eligible individuals to determine the impact of this regulation, we are seeking comments on the following: How will the regulation impact changes to enrollment in FEDVIP? [And] how will the allowance of new categories of employees impact FEDVIP?”

The proposed rule also clarifies that when active duty service members retire, they may enroll in FEDVIP up to 31 days before their retirement date. Currently, retiring members of the military may enroll in FEDVIP any time within 60 days after they transition into retirement, which can often lead to the service member not having dental and vision coverage for as long as a month.

“A sponsor who is on active duty that retires and becomes a [TRICARE-eligible individual] could experience a 30-day break in coverage if that individual enrolls when becoming eligible as a uniformed services retiree,” OPM wrote. “OPM is adding a new paragraph [to the regulations] to allow these active duty service members who will experience a status change to a uniformed services retiree to enroll in FEDVIP beginning 31 days before the service member loses other dental or vision coverage to 60 days after becoming eligible to enroll.”

OPM is seeking public comment on the proposed rule; the deadline to submit feedback is Dec. 17.

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