OPM: 10 new plans coming to FEHBP in 2013

Thursday - 3/29/2012, 1:28pm EDT

This story was updated at 6:50 a.m. March 30.

The Office of Personnel Management will add 10 new health plans to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for 2013.

This is more than what's been added in the past five years combined, said John O'Brien, OPM's director of health care and insurance, in a keynote speech at the FEHB Program Carrier Conference in Arlington, Va., today.

Currently, FEHBP has more than 200 plans that are offered based on location and 19 national plans. FEHBP is the largest private insurance program in the country with more than $43 billion in premiums a year, O'Brien said.

"This is a significant development, which I hope to see more of in the next year," O'Brien said. "It says to me that private insurers recognize that this is a marketplace where the rules of the road allow high-quality plans to compete and serve the program's roughly 8 million lives."

The 10 plans either have been approved or will soon be approved, he said.

OPM said it was still evaluating the plans that have applied for FEHB for 2012. "We cannot release the list of plans that have been approved until all of them have been evaluated. The results with the final list will most likely be completed by the middle of next week," O'Brien said in an email to Federal News Radio.

In its annual call letter to program carriers, OPM set out other changes to tamp down the rising costs of medicine. The agency said it wants generic drugs to make up 75 percent of prescriptions filled. It also called on insurers to offer health, wellness and obesity-reduction programs.

The number of FEHBP enrollees is also expected to increase. Under the Affordable Care Act, FEHBP became open to tribes and tribal organizations. The enrollment system went live last week and is processing the first 16 tribes, representing more than 2,800 enrollees who will begin coverage May 1, O'Brien said. Earlier this year, O'Brien said he expected about 25,000 employees of tribes to join the plan this year.

In his speech, O'Brien also pointed to technological advancements — specifically, the creation of a health claims data warehouse to analyze health services data from the FEHB plans. OPM and OPM's Office of the Inspector General jointly operate the database.

"But even at this early stage, we now have the ability to look at the disease burdens and utilization of enrollees at the population level in ways that we never have before," O'Brien said.

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