Vision, dental plans to stay stable as Federal Health Insurance rises

When it comes to federal benefit plans, dentistry and vision are in a class of their own.

Average health care insurance premiums are on the rise. Federal employees and retirees should expect to be paid 8.7% more, On average, for health insurance in 2023, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program said last month.

However, rates will rise only 0.21% for dentistry. For sight, rates will drop an average of 0.41%.

Part of the reason these rates change independently of the standard health insurance provided by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program is that they are, in fact, independent.

The care provided by dentists and optometrists falls within the scope of Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program. FEDVIP is a voluntary, stand-alone dental and vision program that pays all participants, providing beneficiaries with the option to choose their own carrier. In total, FEDVIP provides dental and vision benefits to a total of 7.5 million federal employees, uniformed service members, retirees, and family members.

FEDVIP shares the same open season dates as FEHB, but employees join them separately. The federal government also does not directly contribute to the cost of vision or dental treatment premiums. Beneficiaries pay everything, although significant tax savings for employees.

For retirees, it may seem that prices rise sharply when they leave government service, but they do not.

The frequency of deductions changes from about 25 per year to 12 percent. Federal employees pay their FEDVIP premiums on a biweekly or bimonthly basis. Federal retirees pay their monthly premiums.

Dental and vision plans use affiliate providers who offer discounts due to the increased business the plans attract. Employees also pay insurance premiums in pre-tax dollars. Since nearly all federal employees face a marginal tax rate near or above 33 percent, any money an employee spends on dental or vision insurance is not subject to these taxes. Employees get up to about a third of a premium discount.

Plan year 2023 also introduces some new changes, according to the 2023 OPM highlights:

Waiting periods for orthodontic services have been cancelled.

– The vast majority of FEDVIP carriers provide services aimed at wellness and education for pregnant women.

The majority of FEDVIP companies provide remote dental services.

Consistent with years past, dental holders will provide ongoing education about the risks of opioid abuse, ensure inclusive language is used in communications and commit to ongoing training of their customer service staff to facilitate the use of the member’s preferred name and pronouns.

Twelve dental holders provide 23 dental plan options available through the program. Seven dental transfer companies offer fourteen nationwide dental plan options to all potential registrants. Five vision companies provide 10 national vision plan options available to all potential registrants.

What to know before the open enrollment season

The open season for federal employees to re-enroll or change health insurance for next year begins on November 14 and runs through December 12. With 271 plan options, OPM encourages registrants to shop the comparison.

Federal recipients can find more open season information, including FEHB Health Plan 2023 comparison tools, on their website around the first week of November.

Last year, average gross premiums for non-postal employees and FEHB precedents rose 2.4 percent, the second-lowest increase in more than two decades.

Molly Wisner is a staff reporter for the Federal Times covering employment, policy, and contracting related to the government workforce. She previously stopped at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked for The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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