Civilian health benefits program open season starting soon

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Brandon Lingle
  • Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs
Air Force civilian employees will have the opportunity to review and update their health care plan during the Federal Employees Health Benefits program open season Nov. 11 to Dec. 9.

Program changes could affect more than 7,000 employees since 11 health plan carriers are dropping out of the FEHB and many others are drastically changing their services in 2003, said Janet Thomas of the benefits and entitlements service team, or BEST team, at the Air Force Personnel center here.

Carriers will still offer 188 enrollment choices.

"Even though insurance carriers leaving the FEHB or making significant service changes are required to notify their customers, we send letters to those affected too," said Thomas, "but it is still the employee's responsibility to ensure (his or her) plan is in order.

"Open season is the best time for people to review their health care coverage," she said, "not only to make desired changes, but to ensure their plan hasn't been altered or discontinued."

FEHB premiums are expected to increase an average of 11 percent in January. Health maintenance organizations will increase an average of 13.6 percent and fee-for-service plans will increase 10.5 percent, Thomas said. Studies show health care premiums nationally will climb as much as 20 percent in 2003, according to officials of the office of personnel management.

Employees with "self-only" coverage will pay about $4.45 more and those with family coverage will pay about $10.21 more per pay period, Thomas said. The government will continue to pay an average of 72 percent of FEHB premiums.

OPM officials attribute these premium increases to the health care providers' rising costs, advances in medical technology, and an aging population, said Thomas.

More FEHB information including guides, rates and plan descriptions are available on the OPM Web site, or the BEST home page.

All Air Force-serviced civilian employees must make their open season changes by one of two methods:

-- AFPC's Employee Benefits Information System Web site. Employees with an existing plan can use the BEST Web automated system to make their elections and avoid having to transfer to a counselor to complete their transaction.

-- The BEST automated phone system at (800) 997-2378, or 527-2378 if calling within San Antonio. Hearing impaired employees may call the TDD line at (800) 382-0893, or 565-2276 within San Antonio. Overseas employees may use the toll-free direct access number for the country that they are in. Counselors are available weekdays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST. (Courtesy of AFPC News Service)