If you work a temporary position for the federal government, you need to know that a new ruling expands your access to federal health care benefits.
A final rule adopted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) October 17 expands the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program to temporary employees who are scheduled to work at least 130 hours a month and end up working at least 90 days during a year.
Eligibility for the program means federal temps will get health insurance partly paid for by government contribution to their FEHB plans.
Eligibility for Benefits Depends on Work Status
Eligibility for benefits such as health care plans or federal disability retirement depends on your employment status and whether you meet the definition of a “temporary” or “seasonal” or “intermittent” worker. Of course, it’s easy to understand situations in which a worker is not entirely sure of their work status or understands what it means.
“Temporary” employees are workers who fill positions that are not expected to last – either because the services provided through the position are not needed past a certain point in time or because the program or agency is scheduled to be abolished.
“Seasonal” workers are those who work during a defined portion of the year that lasts for six months or more. They may be temps or permanent seasonal employees who return to the position year after year.
“Intermittent” workers fill positions in emergencies or on a periodic basis that cannot be regularly scheduled. Intermittent employees may be temporary or permanent workers.
“Permanent” workers are generally eligible for federal benefits once they meet certain time-in-service requirements.
Some temporary employees who had completed one year of continuous employment were also previously eligible for FEHB coverage but without a government contribution to their insurance premium, according to FierceGovernment, a publication that tracks the U.S. government.
Not All Benefits Available to Temporary Workers
The OPM states that the new final rule will affect enough temporary employees that it will extend health care benefits to between 1 percent and 2 percent of the federal workforce.
Still, federal temporary workers are shut out of some benefits.
They are generally unable to obtain retirement benefits, for example, because both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) require an individual to work for at least five years in creditable civilian employment to gain eligibility for general retirement benefits. Most temp workers cannot meet this standard.
On the other hand, disabled workers who meet other disability retirement eligibility requirements need only to have completed 18 months of creditable federal civilian service under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
What benefits do you think you deserve as a part-time federal worker? Do you know your employment status and what assistance you have earned through your time on the job?
If you do not know, and your supervisors or human resources office cannot give your straight answers, you should contact an experienced federal benefits consultant to learn more.