Lowest Health Care Premium Increase in 20 Years

Sep 26, 2018


The Office of Personnel Management announced that federal employees will only see a 1.5% increase in their health insurance premiums for 2019, the lowest increase in more than 20 years. In 2023, federal employees are seeing the highest increase in over a decade.

Those enrolled in FEHB with coverage only for themselves will pay an average of $1.53 more each bi-weekly pay period. Those on full family plans will pay $2.55 more each pay period, and those in self-plus-one plans will pay an additional $3.06.

The average increase for the government’s contribution to FEHBP premiums in 2019 will be 1.2%. OPM contributes roughly 72% toward premiums based on a weighted average of the plans that enrollees choose. This makes the overall increase in premiums, including both the employee and government contributions, 1.3% next year. That marks the slowest growth in health care costs since 1996 and the smallest increase in the enrollees’ share since 1995, Alan Spielman, director of health care and insurance at OPM, said.

“We still encourage enrollees to shop around for coverage and evaluate alternatives,” Spielman said. “Even if you are only seeing a modest increase [in your current plan premiums] or a decrease, you might be able to find a better value if you evaluate your needs and the choices available.”

He says there are several factors that could be driving down price increases. “There are a number of dynamics at play here,” he said. “Certainly, OPM and all of the carriers have been focused on quality improvement and achieving more affordable programs here…and there are a number of trends along those lines. They also include things like renegotiating provider contracts and introducing programs like pharmacy management and chronic care management.”

Next year, there is a moratorium on the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance provider fees. Exact changes to premiums will vary based on plans enrollees choose and some will even decrease. For example, for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Standard Option—the most popular plan—self only enrollees will pay $0.93 less per pay period; enrollees in family coverage will pay $3.74 less per pay period, and self-plus-one enrollees will pay $1.27 less each pay period.

For the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program—where there is no government contribution—dental plan premiums will increase 1.2% on average in 2019, while vision plans will drop in price by 2.8%.

This is also the first year that uniformed service retirees and their families can enroll in FEDVIP plans and the first year that active duty service members can enroll in vision plans.

Open Season for selecting or changing plans in FEHB run from November 12-December 10.

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