Federal workers and retirees who are unhappy with their health insurance probably will have a chance to shop around for a new plan in May.
Office of Personnel Management has announced administrative hearings Feb. 22 and 23 on a proposal to hold the open season originally scheduled for last November.
OPM canceled the November enrollment period, meaning that the 9.2 million people in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program did not have a chance to make changes in their 1982 coverage.
Premiums in the FEHB jumped an average 30 percent last month. Most plans made government-ordered cuts of 16 percent in benefit levels. Many raised deductibles to the $200 level. Suffice it to say a lot of people are unhappy with the situation, and itching to change.
Having a midyear open season, combined with all the benefit changes and the fact that many people have entered treatment programs under their current plans, aggravates a number of problems and raises lots of questions. Among them:
Should people who switch plans pay a transfer fee?
Should all plans be required to accept retirees? (Some of the best plans offered by unions do not take retirees unless they were union members.)
Should plans be allowed to exclude certain pre-existing health conditions for enrollees who switch?
What will be the effect of the financial health of some plans if they are hit by "adverse selection" -- an influx of heavy-users and an exodous of relatively healthy enrollees?
If, after the hearings, OPM decides to hold an open season, it is scheduled to run from May 3 to May 28.