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Time for the fall deadlines

A checklist to help you prioritize as you sort through your federal retirement and insurance benefits.

It is that time of the year when many federal employees as well as retirees have to make some important decisions regarding their federal retirement and insurance benefits. I thought it might be a good time to make a checklist of things that you may be facing this fall so that you may prioritize those that may be important to you.

CSRS or FERS Retirement

  • Are you preparing to retire at the end of 2023? If so, now is the time to submit your CSRS or FERS retirement application to your agency HR office. You should also receive a final retirement estimate for your planned retirement date along with a summary of your federal service prepared by a retirement specialist in HR.  If you are covered by FEGLI, you should also submit the Continuation of Life Insurance form SF 2818 along with your retirement application.
  • Maintain copies of your completed applications and copies of your records of federal service that show your beginning and ending dates of employment, changes in retirement coverage as well as changes in your work schedule. Be sure that you also have documentation of your health and life insurance coverage showing that you have been covered during the last five years of your federal service. Update your CSRS or FERS, FEGLI, and TSP beneficiary designations if necessary as well.

Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

2023 Enrollee Decision Period Deadline: Nov. 9, 2023. Long Term Care Partners, LLC, administrator of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, mailed Enrollee Decision Period letters to FLTCIP enrollees impacted by the current premium increase effective Jan.1, 2024. The mailings started in September 2023 and the letter includes information about the premium increase with personalized options to help mitigate the impact of the increase. You can also view your options online in your My LTCFEDS account. Be sure to consider the value of this benefit as you make your decision regarding accepting the increase or the option to reduce your benefit period, daily or weekly benefit amount or inflation adjustment.  If you need additional information to help you make your decision, call from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET:

1-800-LTC-FEDS (1-800-582-3337)

TTY 1-800-843-3557

Int'l 1-571-730-5938

Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

There is a lot of valuable information in the Federal Benefits Open Season Highlights that OPM has published for the 2024 Plan Year. Here are some highlights from the “Highlights:”

  • Open Season will be held from Nov. 13 through Dec. 11, 2023
  • Everyone has the opportunity to review their plans, make changes, and enroll in one of 157 FEHB plan choices for 2024.
  • There are some plans that will be leaving FEHB next year and they are listed in the OPM Open Season Highlights. Aetna Direct is not leaving and many retirees who are enrolled in itt received a notice regarding Aetna Open Access that is leaving the Kansas City Metro area.  Understandably, these participants were not sure if this was a notice regarding their Aetna Direct coverage and fortunately, it was not. Letters were subsequently mailed to clarify the error and assure these Aetna Direct participants that they can remain in this plan for 2024.
  • Find your health plan rate for 2024 to see how much it is going up. There are two national plans, SAMBA High Option and Rural Carrier Benefit Plan, with rates that are decreasing for 2024, however one is a restricted plan. There are also a few HMOs with price reductions as well. A few plans are keeping prices the same or close to the same for next year, but some plans will see increases that will be higher than the average of 7.7%.  
  • If you do nothing else this open season, review your plan brochure for 2024 and on the front cover, you will find a reference to pages in the brochure that provide the changes in your plan for 2024, a summary of benefits, and the new premiums.

Medicare and FEHB

  • If you are retired and over age 65, there are several open enrollment periods to be aware of:
    • Initial Enrollment Period that begins three months before you turn 65 and lasts for three months after your 65th birthday (seven months total). This is when most people enroll in original Medicare, Parts A and B.
    • If you are covered by current employment health insurance (either you or your spouse is working and you are covered by FEHB through this current employment), you may delay enrollment in Medicare. Part A does not have a premium if you’ve paid the 1.45% payroll tax (or your spouse has paid this tax), so not much reason to avoid Part A (unless you are contributing to a Health Savings Account). If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits when you reach age 65, you will be automatically enrolled in A and B. If you want to delay part B until you (or your spouse who has you covered under their current employment health plan) have retired, you will have a Special Enrollment Period that will last for eight months following the month of retirement.  
    • If you missed your IEP and SEP, there is an annual General Enrollment Period that begins on Jan. 1 and runs through March 31 where you may enroll in Part B. Keep in mind that for every 12 months that you could have been enrolled, but weren’t, there is a permanent 10%late enrollment penalty. For 2024, each 12 month delay will add 10% of the standard Part B premium ($174.70 / month) or $17.47 to your 2024 premium.  
    • Postal retirees and eligible family members who are entitled to Part A prior to Jan. 1, 2024, and have not enrolled in Medicare Part B, may be able to participate in the Special Enrollment Period for Medicare Part B that starts on April 1, 2024 and will last for six months. This will allow eligible retirees to enroll without a late enrollment penalty.  
  • This open season, be sure to learn about the additional prescription drug benefits that many FEHB plans will be including in 2024 for those with Medicare A and/or B enrollment. New for the 2024 plan year is an opportunity for eligible enrollees to receive additional savings and enhanced benefits through a Prescription Drug Plan Employer Group Waiver Plan) offered by 10 FEHB plans. This is in addition to the 28 FEHB plans offering a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan (MA-PD) EGWP in 2024. This change is projected to reduce total FEHB costs by approximately 2.8%, resulting in a more moderate overall rate increase when compared to similarly sized employer groups. If you need expensive medications, this new plan can save you money and limit your out of pocket expenses for prescriptions. The downside is that if you are in a higher income bracket, you will pay a surcharge for this coverage under the Income Related Medicare Adjustment Amount for Part D. If your modified adjusted gross income in 2022 was over $103,000 (single taxpayer) or $206,000 (if you file a joint tax return), then you may be affected by IRMAA.  

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program

After you have selected your FEHB coverage for 2024, check to see if your health plan provides dental or vision care benefits. If not, of if you need more coverage, select one of the national/international dental plans:

  • Aetna Dental
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Dental
  • Delta Dental’s Federal Employees Dental
  • Program
  • GEHA Connection Dental Federal
  • The MetLife Federal Dental Plan
  • United Concordia Dental
  • UnitedHealthcare Dental Plan

Or, if you are eligible, one of the regional plans:

  • Dominion National
  • EmblemHealth Dental
  • Health Partners Dental Plan
  • Humana Dental
  • Triple-S Salud

For vision care, you have the following plans to choose from through FEDVIP in 2024:

  • Aetna Vision Preferred
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Vision
  • The MetLife Federal Vision Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare Vision Plan
  • VSP Vision Care

According to OPM, FEDVIP provides dental and vision benefits to a total of over 7.5 million federal employees, uniformed service members, annuitants, and their family members. It provides comprehensive dental and vision insurance at competitive group rates with leading dental and vision Carriers. FEDVIP enrollees give the program high marks for quality and value. You can choose from standard and high option coverage in most plans with some providing both in-network as well as out-of-network coverage.  Learn more at www.benefeds.com.

Federal Flexible Spending Account Program

Employees should also consider the amount of money to set aside in a tax-free flexible spending account programs offered through the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program. Visit the www.fsafeds.com website for all of the eligible expenses where you can spend your allocated funds. It is not too late to use your funds that you have contributed in 2023. Check out the options for healthcare, dependent care and for those with a high deductible health plan who use a Health Savings Account), you can contribute to a limited expense FSA for out-of-pocket dental and vision expenses.