It’s the season – and we’re not just talking about pumpkin pie and Santa Claus.
While you’re making grocery and gift lists for Thanksgiving, don’t forget about the shopping spree that begins November 14.
For about a month until Dec. 12, federal employees, retirees and some military service members will be able to browse the online marketplace to purchase health insurance for next year. This annual open enrollment period for employer-sponsored healthcare coverage is a chance to review and modify coverage for twelve months beginning January 1, 2023.
In total, more than 8 million people obtain coverage through the schemes each year.
Federal Times tracked major changes to benefits leading up to the start of open enrollment, from telehealth to infertility treatment to why your premiums go up.
This guide summarizes those resources and breaks down what’s new this year, along with expert benefits tips and comparison tools.
How benefits have changed for 2023 program-wide
The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program has 271 health plan choices available for 2023, many of which are only offered regionally.
The Office of Personnel Management has asked insurance companies offering these plans to focus on COVID-19 benefits, telehealth, maternal health, gender-affirming care and services, obesity, preventatives, assisted reproductive technologies and medical foods.
Some plans are also leaving the FEHB program, affecting residents of Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Missouri and Illinois. These carriers are HMO Missouri Inc., HMO Colorado Inc., Emblem Health, Healthkeepers, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia.
See the list of individual package names and affected postcodes here.
Individuals enrolled in these end plans must choose another FEHB plan during open enrollment, otherwise they will be automatically enrolled in the GEHA Compensation Plan, Elevate option, which is the cheapest national plan option for 2023, as determined by OPM.
Leaving the FEHB program is just one of the ways enrollment can be affected.
Even if your plan will remain an FEHB partner for 2023, it could still change in less obvious ways. Plans may reduce their service areas, eliminate its enrollment code, or drop features.
See more changes here.
Skyrocketing healthcare premium costs for 2023
Federal employees will spend an average of 8.7% more on their health insurance premiums in 2023. Rates will only increase by an average of 0.21% for dental care. For vision, rates will decrease by an average of 0.41%. This article explains why vision care and dental care prices are more stable.
For more information on how these costs will appear on your paycheck, see the story here.
Gender-affirming care is growing
For 2023 plans, all FEHB providers will again include some form of gender-affirming care, defined by the Kaiser Family Foundation as “social, psychological, behavioral, or medical interventions (including hormone therapy or surgery ) designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity. .”
For a breakdown of treatment options and specific coverages, see the story here.
Infertility and Maternal Health
The Federal Times reported in this article that beneficiaries can choose from four plan options that will provide assisted reproductive technology for a total of 18 plan options in 2023. A new plan option will provide a non-FEHB benefit for ART procedures at discounted price.
The expanded services will also include childbirth education classes, group prenatal care, home visits during pregnancy and postpartum, and care management for high-risk pregnancies.
All carriers will also cover the full range of contraceptives and contraceptive care for adolescent girls and adult women, as provided in the Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines, without cost sharing.
Can I still benefit from telehealth with concerns related to COVID-19?
For the most part, recipients of the FEHB program will not see a major drop in telehealth options for 2023, OPM said in this interview with Federal Times.
Carriers are responding to this need in different ways, the OPM said, which you can read more about here.
Comparison store FEHB plans to maximize savings
Consider: Of the 2022 plans that will be available again in 2023, 56 have premiums that have dropped. Nine plans have premiums that have remained the same.
In terms of widely reported average increase, 119 plans recorded below-average increases, while 78 recorded average increases equal to or greater than 8.7%.
At each end of the spectrum, one plane shrunk about 35% while another shot up almost 50%.
How have your plan costs changed? Check out these tips from retirement experts to find the best deal.
Additionally, there are a number of additional resources readily available to help you narrow down your options.
And the FEDVIP?
BENEFEDS is the OPM-sponsored enrollment and premium processing system you must use to enroll in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
For plan year 2023, FEDVIP carriers eliminated waiting times for orthodontic services, provided services targeting the welfare and education of pregnant enrollees, and offered teledentistry services.
Can I get a flexible spending account?
Yes. According to the OPM, more than 420,000 Feds are using pre-tax dollars to save an average of 30% on their family’s health care and dependent care expenses.
A flexible healthcare spending account is a savings account used to pay for certain healthcare costs not covered by insurance. Contributions to an FSA are not subject to social charges
In 2023, employees contribute as little as $100 per year or up to $3,050 per year, an increase of $200 from the 2022 maximum of $2,850 in their FSAFEDS account.
I am ready to register. Where am I going?
OPM has instructions on how to choose your benefits at this link.
And if you’re confused by all the acronyms and insurance jargon, check out this glossary of terms from accreditation to holdbacks.
Happy open season!
Military Personnel, Tricare Open Enrollment
PS If you are a military service member and have questions about your Tricare health benefits, check out MilitaryTimes.com coverage here.
Molly Weisner is a reporter for the Federal Times, where she covers government labor, policy and contracts. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as an editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.