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Federal workers to see another rate increase for health coverage

Federal employees will pay an average of about 4 percent more for their health insurance in 2015, marking the fourth straight year of increases in that range, government officials said Tuesday.

The Office of Personnel Management said there will be no significant coverage changes in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and that the number of carriers will also remain about the same at 257, with the majority of them being regional health maintenance organization plans.

The FEHBP is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored health plan, with about 4 million enrolled federal employees and retirees, plus about an equal number of covered family members. Those eligible will be able to newly enroll or change coverage during an open season Nov. 10-Dec. 8.

The government pays 70 percent of premium costs overall, but because of the way the premium sharing formula works, the average enrollee premium will rise 3.8 percent while the government cost will rise 3 percent. That is slightly below the 4.4 percent and 3.7 percent increases of 2014.

In the most popular plan, the Blue Cross-Blue Shield standard option, which covers about 40 percent of FEHBP enrollees, biweekly premiums will increase by $3.21 for self-only coverage and $8.33 for family coverage, up 3.7 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Active postal employees pay somewhat less for their insurance under terms of labor contracts with the U.S. Postal Service.

Officials said that the program has not had a four-year stretch of premium increases in the 4 percent range since the early 1990s.

Jonathan Foley, OPM director of policy and planning analysis, said that while there is no single benchmark plan to compare with the FEHBP, surveys show large private-sector employers expecting premium increases in the 3 percent to 7 percent range. “Generally, we feel we’re in the low end of the industry average,” he said.

The open season also is the annual opportunity for employees and retirees to enroll or change enrollments in the separate Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program. Coverage terms also are remaining stable in that program, and average premiums are increasing by 1.7 percent for dental coverage and 1.5 percent for vision coverage. The government makes no contribution in that program.

Also during the open season, employees may elect to have pre-tax flexible spending accounts to pay for certain dependent care expenses and health-related expenses that are not covered by insurance.