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Open season set for three civilian benefit programs

11/2/2010 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Office of Personnel Management officials have announced open season for three civilian benefit programs beginning Nov. 8 and lasting through Dec. 13.

The three programs are the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, and the Federal Flexible Spending Account.

Federal Employees Health Benefits

The Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, extended the age children may remain covered under their parents' FEHB plans, self and family enrollment, to age 26. Those already enrolled in self and family coverage do not need to re-enroll during open season. New enrollees should contact their health benefits provider to add eligible children effective Jan. 1, 2011. Employees not enrolled in FEHB, or enrolled in self-only coverage, can elect self and family coverage to add newly eligible children during open season.

Premiums for the 2011 FEHB program will rise an average of 7.2 percent.

"This increase is below last year's premium increase of 8.8 percent," said Kathryn Iapichino, a human resources specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center. "There are many plan choices in 2011, including high-deductible and consumer-driven health plans."

Officials recommend employees review their health care coverage during open season, not only to make desired changes, but to ensure their plan continues to meet their medical needs, or has not been altered or discontinued. Employees should also review their plan premiums for 2011, since some will see increases of up to 40 percent in the bi-weekly cost. FEHB premium costs, open season comparison guides, and individual plan brochures for 2011 are available for view at

Air Force-serviced civilian employees can make their FEHB open season enrollments or changes by one of two methods: the Employee Benefits Information System or Benefits and Entitlements Service Team phone system.

EBIS, a secure web application, is located within the Air Force Portal and AFPC Secure website. Employees making an election via EBIS have the advantage of printing a copy of the Standard Form 2809, Health Benefits Election Form, as soon as they complete the election.

Employees in the U.S. who wish to use the BEST automated phone system can call 800-525-0102; press 2 for civilian employees, then 2 for benefits and entitlements, and follow the prompts.

Employees overseas can dial the AT&T toll-free direct-access number for the country in which they are currently located, then 800-525-0102. Direct access numbers can be found at Hearing impaired employees may call the TDD line at 800-382-0893. Counselors are available Sunday from 3 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., CDT.

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program

The Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program provides supplemental dental and vision insurance coverage. FEDVIP is group coverage and the employee is responsible for paying 100 percent of the premiums. There are four plans that offer nationwide and overseas dental coverage and several regional plans to choose from this open season. There are three vision plans to choose from, and all plans provide nationwide as well as overseas coverage. Three enrollment categories are available: 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. The Affordable Care Act does not apply to FEDVIP.

"It's important to understand that FEDVIP and FEHB are entirely separate programs," Ms. Iapichino 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 due to retirement alone.

Federal employees who wish to enroll, change plans, or cancel their enrollment in FEDVIP during the open season must do so by visiting the BENEFEDS website or by calling BENEFEDS toll-free at 877-888-3337 or TDD 877-889-5680. BENEFEDS will "turn off" open season enrollment functions at midnight, EDT, Dec. 13, 2013.

The enrollment process involves two parts. First, enrollees must create a account by providing demographic and employment information. When this one-time step is complete, eligible employees can compare plans and enroll.

The effective date of FEDVIP coverage for the 2011 plan year is Jan. 1, 2011. Premium deductions will begin for Air Force-serviced employees with the pay period beginning Jan. 2, 2011, and will be reflected in their leave-and-earnings statement for that pay period. Premiums will be deducted on a pre-tax basis for employees.

FEDVIP premium costs and individual plan brochures for 2011 are available on the OPM open season website.

Federal Flexible Spending Account

During the open season, eligible employees may enroll in the Federal Flexible Spending Account program for calendar year 2011. There are three types of FSA accounts: the Health Care FSA, the Limited Expense 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. The money is set aside from the employee's salary before taxes are withheld; the employee incurs eligible expenses and receives reimbursement. Enrolling in FSAFEDS lowers the amount of the employee's income tax because the salary set aside for FSAFEDS is exempt from federal income taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, and from most state and local taxes.

Employees who are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program may participate in the FSAFEDS program, even if they are not currently enrolled in FEHB. 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 Limited Expense 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.

The Affordable Care Act has made several changes to FSAFEDS for 2011. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, over-the-counter products that are classified as medicines or drugs will not be eligible for reimbursement from your Health Care Flexible Spending Account, unless a prescription was written and provided for that item. However, insulin will not require a prescription. Other currently eligible over-the-counter items that are not medicines or drugs will not require a prescription. Claims for eligible over-the-counter medicines and drugs purchased prior to Jan. 1, 2011, must be submitted before April 30, 2011, in order to receive reimbursement.

Effective Jan. 1, 2011, an employee enrolled in a Federal Flexible Spending Account program may request reimbursement for eligible health care expenses incurred by a natural child, stepchild, adopted child, eligible foster child, or a child who is placed with the employee for legal adoption. The child does not need to reside with the employee or qualify as the employee's tax dependent to meet eligibility. Prior to Jan. 1, 2011, eligible children were limited to those who could be claimed as dependents on an employee's federal tax return.

The Affordable Care Act has also extended the age of a child who may incur eligible expenses under an employee's Health Care FSA. Expenses of an employee's child are covered through the taxable year prior to the taxable year in which the child turns age 27. This means the child's health care expenses are not eligible for reimbursement during the entire taxable year in which the child turns age 27. For example, enrollees cannot be reimbursed for expenses incurred by a child who turns 27 anytime in 2011. The Affordable Care Act does not affect Dependent Care FSAs. For further information, visit the FSAFEDS website at or call 877-372-3337 or TDD 800-952-0450.

The maximum annual election for the Health Care FSA and for the Limited Expense Health Care FSA is $5,000. 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.

The FSAFEDS program also has a 2.5-month grace period. If the 2011 account is not exhausted by Dec. 31, 2011, eligible expenses incurred Jan. 1 through March 15, 2012, will be applied to the remaining 2011 balance.

Enrollments are made via the FSAFEDS website or by calling toll-free 877-372-3337 or TDD 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 website, 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 the AFPC personnel services website and select the Civilian tab, and then select Benefits and Entitlements.

(Courtesy of Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs)

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