Tens of thousands of temporary, part-time, seasonal and U.S. Postal Service employees are now eligible for coverage through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP).
Feds who work for 130 hours per month, for at least 90 days on temporary, seasonal or intermittent schedules, are officially able to enroll themselves and eligible family members for dental and vision benefits in FEDVIP, the Office of Personnel Management said in a final draft, finalized on Tuesday. Certain firefighters and intermittent emergency response personnel for wildland fire protection, who may not meet those hourly work requirements, are also now eligible for the program.
The FEDVIP eligibility expansion additionally covers Postal Service workers, including those on seasonal and intermittent schedules. USPS doesn’t currently offer dental or vision insurance to employees who work 130 hours a month for at least 90 days.
The new changes couple with a previous update from OPM that let these same groups of employees gain access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB). Federal wildland firefighters gained FEHB eligibility in 2012, while temporary, seasonal and intermittent-schedule employees became FEHB-eligible in 2015. FEHB and FEDVIP typically go hand in hand, but in this case, the previous rules did not allow FEDVIP eligibility for these groups of employees.
OPM first proposed the FEDVIP eligibility expansion in 2021, along with provisions designed to make it easier for certain employees to alter their enrollment with the program outside of the traditional open season window.
OPM estimates that this final rule would make 72,100 temporary and seasonal federal employees eligible for FEDVIP, as well as approximately 118,609 Postal employees, for a combined total of nearly 200,000 feds.
It’s unclear, though, how many of the newly eligible feds will actually enroll in FEDVIP and what impact their participation will have on the program. FEDVIP already has about 5.4 million enrollees and about 7.3 million covered participants.
“There may be significant pent-up demand for services, at least initially, because it is likely that these individuals did not have dental or vision coverage,” OPM said.
Additionally, because of the specific positions of the newly eligible employees, including wildland firefighters, there are more on-the-job risks, especially when it comes to vision, OPM said. This may require carriers to cover more costly dental and vision procedures, and in turn, could lead to a slight increase in average premiums.
“Other than the small distributional effects, the net effect of expanding eligibility should be positive for society,” OPM said. “The expansion of coverage also promotes parity with other federal employees in dental and vision access for employees with higher occupational risk, such as wildland firefighters and other emergency responders who may experience harmful impacts of fire and smoke on their vision and health.”
Currently, FEDVIP includes 12 dental carriers and five vision carriers, which in total offer 23 dental plan options and 10 vision plan options.
Federal employees typically make changes to their health, dental and vision coverage during open season, an annual window running from mid-November through early-to-mid-December.
But for first-time enrollees, the newly FEDVIP-eligible feds now have a 60-day window to opt themselves and their family members into the program.
OPM’s final rule also updates the enrollment window for retiring active-duty military members, who can now enroll in FEDVIP up to a month before their official retirement date, and up to two months post-retirement. The previous policy only let members enroll within the first 60 days following their retirement, but that sometimes led to breaks in insurance coverage, often for up to a month.
Finally, OPM’s final rule adds more types of qualifying life events for participants to cancel or decrease their FEDVIP enrollment. Enrollees who become eligible for dental and vision insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs, or due to deployment to active military duty, can now qualify to change their insurance options outside the standard annual open season window, not just for themselves but also their family members who are on the plan.
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