Get a Life!: Feds get fit for open season

OPM kicks off a new program to raise awareness of the value of a healthy lifestyle -- just in time for open season for changes to federal employee health insurance.

Every open season, the need for some way to hold down health costs hits home for federal employees. Health costs keep rising along with federal employee health insurance premiums, and more than a little bit.

Open season for changes to federal employee health insurance will be Nov. 9 to Dec. 14.

Premium increases for 2010 will average 8.8 percent. As one approach, federal employee unions would like the Office of Personnel Management to bear a greater share of the costs.

Blue Cross will have the largest increases: 12 percent for family coverage and 15 percent for self-only. Roughly 60 percent of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program’s more than eight million participants are covered by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard or basic plans. Premiums increased 13 percent last year.

OPM also announced increases in premiums for the federal dental and vision coverage program. Dental premiums will climb by an average 4.2 percent, while the vision program will see a 2.4 percent increase in premiums.

Other health news this month concerns federal employees. FedsGetFit is a new effort by OPM to raise awareness of federal employees to a healthy lifestyle. Given health care costs, there is more than one reason to stay healthy.

The first of three planned events is a Fitness Expo/Walk to be held at 12 noon on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009, on the National Mall. The program will include an optional one-mile walk at 11:30 a.m. along the Mall. An expo will highlight agency work life programs.

If you haven’t heard about this yet from your human resource offices, you will soon, because OPM instructed FedsGetFit officials to join the walk on the Mall. The awareness campaign, which begins in October with the theme of fitness, will focus on nutrition in November and healthy choices in December.

Meanwhile, staying fit could have retirement rewards. The Defense Authorization conference report included allowing workers under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) to get credit for unused sick leave, a right employees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) already have. It will be phased in over four years with a 50 percent credit through Dec. 31, 2013, and a 100 percent credit beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The Congress is expected to approve it.