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Open season for civilian benefits

Posted 11/12/2009   Updated 11/12/2009 Email story   Print story


Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

11/12/2009 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- ¬≠Officials here announced the open season for three civilian benefit programs lasting Nov. 9 through Dec. 14.

The three programs are the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, or FEHB; the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, or FEDVIP; and the Federal Flexible Spending Account, or FSAFED, Program.

Federal Employees Health Benefits

In the FEHB program, premiums for 2010 will rise an average of 8.8 percent. There are several plans from which to choose for 2010, including high-deductible and consumer-driven health plans.

Officials recommend employees review and update their health plans during the open season.

"Open season is the best time for employees to review their health care coverage, not only to make desired changes, but to ensure their plan has not been altered or discontinued," said Fran Campbell of the Benefits and Entitlements Service Team at the Air Force Personnel Center. "Employees should also review plan premiums for 2010, since some will see increases of up to 90 percent in the cost of their premiums."

FEHB premium costs, open season comparison guides, and individual plan brochures for 2010 are available for view on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Web page at www.opm .gov/insure/health/planinfo/index.asp.

Air Force-serviced civilian employees can make their FEHB open season enrollments or changes by one of two methods: Employee Benefits Information System or BEST phone system. EBIS, a secure Web application, is located behind the Air Force Portal and the AFPC secure Web site. An advantage of making an election via EBIS is that employees can print a copy of Standard Form 2809, the Health Benefits Election Form, as soon as they complete the election. Employees in the United States who wish to use the BEST automated phone system can call (800) 525-0102, press 2 for civilian employees, then 2 for BEST benefits and entitlements, and follow the prompts. Employees in foreign areas should first dial the AT&T toll-free direct access number for the country they are in, then (800) 525-0102. Direct access numbers can be found at www.usa.att.com/traveler/index.jsp. Hearing impaired employees may call the TDD line at (800) 382-0893, or commercial at (210) 565-2276 within San Antonio. Benefits counselors are available Sunday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Central Time.

Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program

FEDVIP provides supplemental dental and vision insurance coverage. FEDVIP is group coverage on an enrollee pay all basis. Seven plans offer dental benefits, and three plans offer vision benefits, including regional, national and international coverage. The three enrollment categories available are self only, self plus one, and self and family. Coverage and benefits vary, but they generally include preventive-care services, oral and eye exams, orthodontia, and a variety of eye- and oral-care products and procedures. "It's important to understand that FEDVIP and FEHB are entirely separate programs," Ms. Campbell said. "Federal employees eligible to enroll in the FEHB program may enroll in FEDVIP, even if they have not enrolled in FEHB. Eligibility is the key."

FEDVIP enrollment automatically continues from year to year like FEHB enrollment. FEDVIP enrollment also continues when enrolled employees retire. There is no "five-year rule" and employees cannot cancel FEDVIP coverage just because they retire, said Ms. Campbell. Federal employees who wish to enroll, change plans or cancel their enrollment in the FEDVIP program during this open season must do so by visiting the BENEFEDS Web site at www.benefeds.com/ or calling BENEFEDS toll-free at (877) 888-3337 or TTY (877) 889-5680. The effective date of FEDVIP coverage for the 2010 plan year is Jan. 1, 2010. Premium deductions will begin for Air Force-serviced employees with the pay period beginning Jan. 3, 2010, and will be reflected in their Leave and Earnings Statement for that pay period. Premiums will be deducted on a pre-tax (premium conversion) basis for employees. Enrollees pay the full premium for dental and vision coverage, with no government contribution.

FEDVIP premium costs and individual plan brochures for 2010 are available on the OPM Open Season Web page at www.opm.gov/insure/openseason/. Federal Flexible Spending Account

During this open season, eligible employees may enroll in the FSAFEDS program for calendar year 2010. The three types of FSA accounts are the Health Care FSA, the Limited Expense (or LEX) Health Care FSA, and the Dependent Care FSA. The FSAFEDS program allows federal employees to set aside pre-tax money for a wide range of medical and dependent care expenses should an employee incur eligible expenses and require reimbursement.

Employees who are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program may participate in the FSAFEDS program, even if they are not currently enrolled. Employees who enroll in one of the high deductible health plans and are eligible for a health savings account may not have a regular Health Care FSA account, but they may enroll in the LEX Health Care FSA. All employees with qualified dependents may enroll in a Dependent Care FSA, except temporary employees with no fixed work schedule whose tour of duty is six months or less.

There are no benefit changes in FSAFEDS for 2010. The maximum annual election is $5,000 for the Health Care FSA and for the LEX Health Care FSA. The Dependent Care FSA annual maximum is $5,000 per household or $2,500 if married and filing separate tax returns. The minimum annual amount for each type of FSA account is $250.

Enrollments are made via the FSAFEDS Web site at www.fsafeds .com/fsafeds/index.asp or by calling toll-free (877) 372-3337 or TTY (800) 952-0450. Enrollment does not carry over automatically from year to year. Employees must submit a new enrollment for each year they wish to participate.

Detailed information on the FSA program is available on the FSAFEDS Web site, including an online calculator that will help estimate the FSA contribution and potential annual tax savings. For more information on any of these programs or other civilian employee benefits and entitlements, visit AFPC's "Ask" Web site and click on the Civilian tab, then select Benefits & Entitlements from the dropdown list.

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