WASHINGTON (Dec. 9, 2008)—The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced late last week that federal employees and retirees will be granted a belated enrollment period for choosing a health benefit provider past the original deadline of December 8, 2008 through January, 2009. OPM made the announcement after concerns were raised over little-known changes to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard program that would have required enrollees to pay up to $7500 out of pocket for out-of-network surgical procedures. As a result, OPM has asked all participating insurance providers to re-evaluate their benefits for out-of-network surgeries by December 8, and will follow up with a Benefits Administration Letter this month.
In a memo to agencies on December 5, OPM wrote, To ensure employees have an adequate time to evaluate any changes, OPM is allowing agencies to accept belated FEHB changes through January 2009. And, because a change in FEHB enrollment may affect decisions regarding enrollment in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program and the Federal Flexible Spending Account Programs Employees, employees may continue to make enrollment choices for these programs through January, using the Open Season websites and call centers.
OPM also notes that if employees do make a belated change to be aware that changes will take effect depending on the timing of changes and employee pay periods. OPM writes, It may take one or more pay periods for your Federal Benefits deductions/allotments to be adjusted to match your new election. You need to know if you make a belated Open Season change and you have claims for services incurred in 2009 under your former plan, you and/or your provider may be responsible for reimbursing the former plan for any benefits paid.
Congressman Steny Hoyer emphasized that employees should not expect any dramatic changes to existing plans, only a re-evaluation of out-of-network surgical coverage. Employees who want to change plans after December 8 must go to their agency's human resources office and request a belated open season enrollment/change. Retirees will go through OPM. More information can be found at OPMs website www.opm.gov.
OPM press release and additional materials