Premiums for federal health plan set to increase 3.4 percent

Thursday - 9/20/2012, 1:23pm EDT

Federal employees will pay an average of 3.4 percent more in 2013 for premiums in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday.

"On average, FEHBP Program enrollees with self only coverage will pay $2.75 more per bi-weekly pay period," OPM said in a press statement, "and enrollees with family coverage will pay $6.39 more."

Premiums for dental insurance will increase by an average of less than one percent, OPM said. The cost of buying vision insurance will, on average, decrease by less than less than one percent.

Open Season dates

Open season this year will run from Nov. 12 to Dec 10. During this time, federal employees can buy or make changes to their health, dental and vision insurance. They can also make changes to their flexible spending accounts.

OPM leaders said the average annual increase for FEHB premiums has steadily declined since 2009, when the average premium increase was 7 percent.

"I am pleased that we were able to keep the average increase low again this year," said OPM Director John Berry. "It is important that we deliver competitive rates and benefits through an efficiently run program to attract and retain top-talent in the federal service. Once again, we successfully used our market leverage and previous years' experience to negotiate the lowest possible premium rates without sacrificing benefits."

Unions respond

But unions representing federal employees said the increases are too much to handle.

The American Federation of Government Employees called for a moratorium on all FEHBP premium hikes.

"FEHBP premiums increased by an average of 7 percent in 2011 and 3.8 percent 2012 while federal pay did not increase at all, due to the [pay] freeze," said J. David Cox, AFGE national president, in a statement. "Congress and the administration have decided to turn the federal workforce into a 'fixed income' population that simply cannot afford another cent toward already inflated FEHBP premiums."

Colleen Kelley, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union echoed the sentiment, though she did not endorse the idea of a moratorium.

"Any increase is hard for federal employees given the freeze on federal pay," Kelley said in a statement. "NTEU is committed to working to make the proposed 0.5 percent pay raise for the federal workforce retroactive to January and to increase pay raises in the following years."

Different premiums for different plans

Actual premiums for 2013 will vary from plan to plan. OPM will add five new plans, bringing the total number of options to 230.

"The average premium has gone up 3.4 percent, but the average always hides a wide variation in individual plans," said Walt Francis, principal author of Checkbook's Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees. "Some plans have actually decreased premiums, and others have gone up much more than 3 percent. … You have to pay attention to how things are changing, or not changing, to make a smart choice."

FEHBP insures 8.2 million people, according to an OPM fact sheet.

Click here for a link to premium rates for 2013.

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